Issue 12-43 November 1 2018

Cover photo © 2018 Laura Carbone

 In This Issue 

Marty Gunther has our feature interview with JP Soars. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Bob Margolin, Chris Youlden & The Slammers, Damon Fowler, Anthony Geraci, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Shemekia Copeland, Roger C. Wade meets Balta Bordoy and The Roger Hill Band.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

bob margolin cd imageBob Margolin – Bob Margolin

VizzTone Label Group

15 songs – 56 minutes

Bob Margolin’s 2016 release, My Road, was a raw, stripped-down recording featuring  Margolin on guitar and vocals, Chuck Cotton on drums and vocals, Tad Walters on harp and guitar and no bass player at all. His latest, self-titled, release on the VizzTone label sees Margolin go further down the road of self-sufficiency in that while the album was mastered by Dave Harris, Margolin produced, recorded, mixed and played every note on the album.

With a mix of six original songs and nine choice covers from the likes of Snooky Prior, Muddy Waters, James Cotton, Leroy Carr, Jimmy Rogers, Johnny Winter and Bob Dylan, Margolin covers a lot of musical ground. Some songs, like the upbeat opener “One More Day”, and the charming slide-driven Motown-tribute instrumental “Detroit” feature a full band setting with Margolin on guitars, bass and drums.  The Muddy-esque “Mercy” is played with just a solo guitar backing, while Carr’s “Blues Before Sunrise” features two guitars merging and meshing in classic Waters/Rogers style.

“Blues Before Sunrise”, “How Long How Long Blues” and Johnny Winters’ “Dallas” are relatively well-known songs. Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” is of course very well-known albeit perhaps not in a blues context. Margolin also lays down some lesser-known covers, however. Pryor’s “Peace Of Mind” was originally recorded for Margolin’s 1994 album, My Blues And My Guitar. On the new version, Pryor’s memorably catchy harp riff is recreated by Margolin’s slide guitar. Rogers’ “Goin’ Away Baby” is played pretty close to the original, albeit without Little Walter’s magical harp accompaniment, while Muddy’s “Look What You Done” is played with a single guitar backing as opposed the Muddy’s full band original (with its glorious piano by Otis Spann).  Muddy’s great jump blues, “She’s So Pretty” was originally the b-side to “Hoochie Choochie Man” in 1954. Delightfully, Margolin retains the unexpected sudden ending of the original.

Lyrically, Margolin’s original songs address similar themes to those on My Road.  On “Head Held High” he offers a different perspective on a familiar story of breakup and heartbreak. “Mercy” and “Best I Can Do” look at the current toxic political climate in as balanced a way as possible (with some glorious slide guitar on the former). “My Road” (which wasn’t ready in time to be included on the album of the same name) is Margolin’s own personal story.

There are some magnificent moments on Bob Margolin, usually involving his astonishing slide guitar playing, which is by turns angry, distraught, happy and sexual. His playing on the album’s closing track, Cotton’s “One More Mile” is particularly moving. The highlights of the album are when Margolin’s guitar is allowed to take centre stage, such as on “One More Mile”, “Mercy” or the space-age slide of “Best I Can Do.”

Margolin’s singing voice remains something of an acquired taste. The weaker songs on the album are those where he provides the rhythm section. “One More Day”, in particular, could benefit from a different drum pattern. 

Bob Margolin deserves credit for his continued willingness to try new ideas and approaches as he approaches his 70th birthday. There is a rawness to Bob Margolin that is enticing and fans of deep blues guitar playing will find a lot to enjoy here.

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 – 2 of 8 

chris youlden cd imageChris Youlden & The Slammers – Closing Time

The Last Music Company

18 Tracks/52:45

For many long-time fans of British blues music, the name Chris Youlden will immediately conjure up memories of the early Savoy Brown albums – Blue Matter, A Step Further, Raw Sienna. It is Youlden’s deep, rich voice heard on classic tracks like “Train To Nowhere,” “I Made Up My Mind,” and “I’m Tired”. Parting ways with the band in 1970, the singer embarked on a solo career that surprisingly never managed to connect with listeners, despite four well-received releases.

As explained in the notes in the booklet included on this project, in July, 1987, Youlden went into the studio, backed by the Slammers, musicians he had been regularly appearing with locally. Drummer Malcolm Mills was a main catalyst for the project with help from Dave Briggs and Will Stallibrass on guitar, Paul Riley on bass, and Peter Jennings on Hammond B-3 organ on three tracks. They cut nine tracks in total. Four years later, they returned to the studio to try again, cutting six new songs plus redoing three cuts from the initial session. Stallibrass and Jennings were not part of the second session, with Geraint Watkins filling in on keyboards.

The disc opens with a tough version of the Lazy Lester hit, “Sugar Coated Love,” complete with some taut guitar licks, followed by a fiery run-through of “Number Nine Train,” Youlden utilizing a smooth tone for his rapid-fire delivery. “I Wanna Stay Alive” is a standout original that comes on strong, like a lost track from those long-gone days with Savoy Brown. The band shows it’s mastery of the Eddie Cochran style on “Nervous Breakdown,” while Youlden delivers a pensive interpretation of James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight”. Stallibrass adds some mournful harmonica tones on “Fool’s Paradise”. Youlden expertly captures the resignation that comes from examining life’s mistakes. Then he sounds right at home while singing over the swinging rhythm on “Roll With My Baby”.

The 1991 session kicks off with a rousing cover of Billy Boy Arnold’s “I Ain’t Got You,” as Briggs fires off some hearty guitar licks while Watkins pounds the piano keyboard. “In The Middle Of the Night” is taken at a frantic pace, suffering from a muddy mix. But the band rolls along like a well-oiled machine on Jimmy McCracklin’s “Come On,” and Youlden dishes out a fine vocal. Another standout performance is found on “How Deep Is The Well,” written by Percy Mayfield. The singer showcases his versatility and vocal range on a memorable, jazz-tinged rendition. “Let’s Talk About Us” and “Sweet Love Of Mine” are rockabilly rave-ups, with the band obviously having fun. Three “bonus” tracks include “Roll With My Baby,” complete with a mellower arrangement focused on Watkins on piano, a second version of “Sugar Coated Love” featuring Youlden’s earnest presentation, and a cleaner take on “I Wanna Stay Alive” that lacks some of the menace of the previous version.

After listening to this disc, it is hard to figure out why someone as talented as Chris Youlden has faded into the mists of time. He and the band have an obvious connection, with Mills, as producer, keeping the instrumental solos brief to maintain the focus on Youlden’s dynamic voice. While these tracks may not equal his seminal work with Savoy Brown, they do further establish Chris Youlden’s legacy as one of the finest vocalists of the early British blues era.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

damon fowler cd imageDamon Fowler – The Whiskey Bayou Session

Whiskey Bayou Records

11 tracks | 45 minutes

Who is Damon Fowler? On this, his seventh solo effort, he is produced by “Louisiana’s No. 1 roots export”, Tab Benoit, co-writer on five of the songs. They are a musical match made in heaven. The well-oiled rhythm machine of Justin Headley on drums and Todd Edmonds on bass adds considerable weight to the proceedings. They have together made a record worthy of as much praise as it will undoubtedly receive. This one is for the ages.

Damon plays a truly great guitar with his brilliant tone and other-worldly dexterity never getting in the way of each song’s particular nuance on the southern blues roots genre. His virtuoso lap steel playing is reminiscent of sounds heard on many great records from the past but his leads are never directly derivative. The melodic structure always takes a new path to the logical endpoint you don’t see coming. He pairs his signature guitar licks with rhythmic chord changes that utilize multiple voicings always on the move, up or down to their destinations. Damon leaves it up to the well-placed leads to take the twists and turns on the road to salvation, the lyrical central theme throughout. “It came out of nowhere” opens the set. It may have “hit him by surprise and threw him for a loop” but the listener is immediately with him and on his side. When the lead hits and the drummer follows along note for note, hit for hit, the stage is set for music made by musicians not afraid to go for it. The southern funk on “Fairweather friend” keeps the party going and Damon’s treble soaked Nashville-style leads never fail to please.

Damon’s voice is the main focus of the album and he delivers his tales in an unassuming back-woods slightly hoarse yet tuneful bayou drawl not far from the greats such as Dr. John or Billy F. Gibbons, not quite as easy going as J.J. Cale but he can get there. There are a lot of great musical moments. His high range is not wasted and is a cut above the rest. In the Little Walter penned “Up The Line” he trades in the old Chicago style blues for the slick lick from Jimi Hendrix’ Band of Gypsys “Power to Love” and combines it with Lynard Skynard’s ”Swamp Music” boogie.

On another cover, his take on the traditional gospel tune “Just a closer walk with thee”, he shows his spiritual side in not compromised. This song possibly dates back to before the Civil War as a slave field work song and has been recorded over 100 times since its “discovery” in 1940. Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s 1941 version has her trail blazing non-secular lead guitar work and her soaring soulful vocalizing. The 1960 Patsy Cline slow burning weeper smacks of deep devotion. The song seems to have an uncanny ability to be reborn with each additional interpretation. Even today rock icon Jack White sings it live and The Avett Brothers regularly sing it as an encore. Damon adds the best of what he brings to the table. “I am weak but thou art strong.” Redemption is a musician’s stock and trade and somehow his version of the hymn captures the essence in two-step style. Maybe it’s the “Let it Be, Lord, Let it Be” which attracts us as it may have for the Beatles on their popular swan song. If some songs have legs then this one’s a centipede.

The record displays copious amounts of swamp boogie on the backend. “Pour Me” is a clever double entendre song “Pour me a glass of your knowledge so that I can see the smartest man that could ever be, pour me, pour me. I got a question. I got a problem. Can you help poor me?” These are great lyrics with a twist. Liquor has always been a part of the traditional blues medicine and this is one heck of a drinking tune. “Holiday” has original and personal lyrics about leaving stress behind. “I can’t take it no more…lead me to the water, draw a line out in the sand…I don’t care about you plans. I just need a holiday.” The half-time chorus emphasizes musically his need to slow it down.

The hit here is the next song “Running out of time” with the built in sing-a-long chorus “I can’t wait to cross that county line…” stimulates visions of dirt roads and the feeling of escape. The happy-go-lucky groove and the picking up speed hot licks harks back to his roots as one third of Butch Trucks’ Freight Train Band guitarists and his now side gig with Dickey Betts’ Band. He also is in “Southern Hospitality” on Blind Pig Records with Victor Wainwright on Hammond B3 and J.P. Soars on guitar. Damon plays well with others. He’s a throwback to the days gone by where dual guitars made sense. By himself here he does just fine and needs little assistance. “Florida Baby”, a dreamy travelogue from Pensacola to Tampa, ends our journey with the comforting sounds of the lap steel which in his capable hands provides an unforgettable coda to an album worth buying.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 8 

anthony geraci cd imageAnthony Geraci – Why Did You Have To Go

Blue Duchess/Shining Stone Records SSCD005

13 songs – 60 minutes

Boston-based Anthony Geraci has one of the most in-demand keyboard players in the blues for decades and possesses a fine singing voice himself, but he’s yielded the mike to who’s who cast of vocalists for this powerful, all-original CD, his first effort in his new collaboration with Duke Robillard’s Blue Duchess/Shining Stone Records imprint.

It’s truly an all-star cast, including Sugar Ray Norcia, native Texans Sugaray Rayford and Willie J. Laws, and a trio of Bay State favorites: Michelle “Evil Gal” Willson, Brian Templeton and Dennis Brennan. But that should come as no surprise for anyone who’s witnessed Anthony in action.

A native of New Haven, Conn., he took his first piano lesson at age four and fell in love with the blues in high school. Formally trained at Berklee College Of Music, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree, and Skidmore College, where he earned his master’s, he’s a gifted composer and arranger who polished his blues chops at the feet of three of three legends: David Maxwell, Roomful Of Blues co-founder Al Copley and Ron Levy.

A founding member of both Norcia’s Sugar Ray And The Bluetones and Ronnie Earl &The Broadcasters, Anthony’s been a professional musician for four decades, has been nominated for the Blues Music Association’s Pinetop Perkins Piano Player Of The Year award each of the past three years. This is the seventh album he’s released under his own name, including two as frontman for the band Little Anthony And The Locomotives and a dual project with Sugar Ray. His 41 other credits include the Grammy-nominated SuperHarps with Charlie Musselwhite, James Cotton, Billy Branch and Carey Bell, and Fifty Shades Of Blue, his most recent solo effort in 2015, which garnered BMA nominations for album, traditional album and song of the year.

Geraci currently splits his time among the Bluetones, and two supergroups – the West Coast-based The Proven Ones and The Boston Blues All-Stars, and he weaves many of them into the rich musical tapestry you’ll hear here, including guitarists Monster Mike Welch, Laws, Earl, Troy Gonyea and Kid Ramos, bassists Michael “Mudcat” Ward and Willie J. Campbell, drummers Marty Richards, Neal Gouvin and Jimi Bott, sax player Gordon “Sax Gordon” Beadle and trumpet player Doug Woolverton.

The album opens with the slow-blues lover’s lament, “Why Did You Have To Go,” with Norcia handling plaintive lyrics that find him alone in the home recently abandoned by his one-and-only love. Welch’s stylish single-note guitar riffs and the horns set the stage for the treasures to come. The tempo quicks to a medium-fast shuffle with jazzy soul-blues feel for Rayford’s “Don’t The Grass Look Greener,” delivered from the standpoint of being cast out and replaced by someone else.

Anthony’s piano comes to the fore in most of the tunes that follow. The straight-ahead blues “Fly On The Wall,” is delivered by Laws, deals with a woman too many lovers, and in the slow blues, “Angelina, Angelina,” Rayford bemoans being left alone at the courthouse door following a divorce. He remains in charge for “Long Way Home,” which has a true, funky, New Orleans feel, before Willson makes her first appearance for the jazzy ballad “Two Steps Away From The Blues.”

Norcia’s in charge on vocals and harmonica for the stop-time pleaser, “Time’s Running Out,” before Geraci and Laws team for a stripped-down slow-blues piano/vocal duet in “Baptized In The River Yazoo.” “Too Many Bad Decisions,” featuring Brennan, is an old-school barrelhouse piano number with strong sexual overtones, while the jazzy duet ballad “What About Me” finds Willson wanting to resume a failed lover affair and Templeton wary and still affected by a broken heart.

The tempo quickens again for the Big Easy-flavored “Hand You Your Walking Shoes,” sung by Brennan, before “My Last Good-Bye” features a broken-hearted Norcia at the mike, wondering why his lady has left him and knowing he never had the courage to ask her why. It’s an unhurried, nine-minute opus in which Earl, Geraci and Sugar Ray all take stellar extended deep blues solos. The action ends with “A Minor, Affair,” a sweeping, sophisticated jazz with strong blues overtones.

Available from iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby and GooglePlay, Why Did You Have To Go is an hour-long masterwork by folks who truly know their business. Anthony Geraci’s the headliner here, but everyone in the project shines, as do all of Geraci’s new songs, which have an eternal, ageless feel. Pick this one 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 – 5 of 8 

joanne shaw taylor cd imageJoanne Shaw Taylor – Wild

Silvertone/Sony Music 19075867742

11 songs – 50 minutes

Blues-rocker Joanne Shaw Taylor has proven herself as one of the best artists in the field since being discovered at age 16 by The Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, charts new territory with this album, the first release under her three-record deal with Sony’s recently revived Silvertone imprint.

Taylor has compiled an impressive collection of honors for four previous albums on Ruf Records and her own Axehouse label since emerging at age 23 out of England’s Black Country – located in the West Midlands between Birmingham and the Irish Sea — with White Sugar in 2009.

In addition to garnering multiple best female vocalist prizes in the British Blues Awards, she’s also been recognized as its songwriter of the year, and her albums consistently place in the Billboard Top Ten charts in the U.S. Her fanbase includes several superstars, including John Mayall, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Wilko Johnson and others.

Influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix and Albert Collins, she’s equally gifted as a guitarist and vocalist, possessing a warm, rich alto that’s just as powerful as the talent she displays on the six-string. She delivers her lyrics virtually free of the accent of her homeland that she’d displayed previously.

This disc was recorded in Nashville’s Grand Victor Sound Studios under the supervision of Kevin Shirley, who’s produced a diverse group of artists, including Aerosmith, Iron Maiden, Journey and Joe Bonamassa. Joanne penned nine of the 11 tracks here – either on her own or in collaboration with a who’s who of songsmiths, including Leon Russell, Gary Nicholson and James House, among others.

She’s backed by guitarist Rob McNelly and keyboard player Steve Nathan with a rhythm section of Greg Morrow on drums and Michael Rhodes on bass. Paulie Cerra (sax) and Lee Thornburg (trumpet) provide horns with backing vocals delivered by Mahalia Barnes, Juanita Tippins and Jade MacRae.

Rapid triplets on the drums drive the opener, “Dyin’ To Know,” with Hill Country feel before it explodes into a searing blues rocker. It describes someone alternately lost in the haze or in a maze as he tries to find his way home. Shaw Taylor’s mid-tune solo shines. A seven-note guitar hook propels the stop-time pleaser “Ready To Roll,” which instructs a lover to “take me where you want to/Give me what I need/Say what I want to hear/If you really want to get to me” – an irresistible offer coming from the blonde beauty whose images dominate most of the eight-page booklet that accompanies the disc.

“Get You Back” delivers a promise of upcoming revenge for a guilty man atop a steady four-four beat, while the funky “No Reason To Stay” seamlessly continues the theme. “Wild Is The Wind,” penned by Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington — a hit first for Johnny Mathis in 1957, then Nina Simone and David Bowie – becomes a tender, pensive, seven-minute ballad under Joanne’s touch as it describes the new life the singer gains after a simple kiss. But the action heats up dramatically for the full-bore rocker, “Wanna Be My Lover,” which follows.

The opening guitar chords to “I’m In Chains” shift from right to left speaker before Shaw Taylor sings about the desire to be bound for life by a man who’s stolen her heart. Love’s apparently fleeting, however, because “I Wish I Could Wish You Back,” the ballad that follows, finds Joanne penning a letter, urging the guy to return.

“My Heart’s Got A Mind Of Its Own,” which follows, is acoustically different as it swings with full horn arrangements and an old-school soul-blues feel as it describes how the juxtaposition affects judgment in romance, while the multi-layered rocker “Nothin’ To Lose” clearly states the singer’s moving on. The album concludes with an interesting cover of George Gershwin’s familiar standard, “Summertime,” which is delivered as an unhurried ballad with Spanish guitar overtones.

Shaw Taylor’s Wild will provide eargasms for anyone with a love for blues rock. The blues here comes through loud and clear, and the instrumentation rocks. Strongly recommended.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

shemekia copeland cd imageShemekia Copeland – America’s Child

Alligator Records

12 Tracks/49:22

Celebrating the twentieth anniversary of her debut recording on Alligator Records, Shemekia Copeland returns with her eighth recording, that finds producer Will Kimbrough utilizing her powerhouse voice as the centerpiece on twelve songs that mix biting social commentary with slices of American roots music. Tracks like the razor-sharp “In The Blood Of The Blues” confirm that Copeland remains a first-rate blues singer. Even more impressive is “Promised Myself,” done as a tribute to her father, Johnny Clyde Copeland. She keeps her emotions under control, using meticulous phrasing to convey the heartache in his original tune. Lead guitar on the track is handled by the another legend, Steve Cropper.

The singer is not afraid to share her thoughts on the state of modern society. The twin guitar attack of Kimbrough and Al Perkins on pedal steel guitar create a gut-wrenching backdrop on “Ain’t Got Time For Hate,” a steadfast pleas for understanding across the land. Another standout track is “Would You Take My Blood,” with Copeland breaking things down to the heart of racism, asking, “Would you take my blood, or would you rather die, than share your life with mine?”. Her duet with John Prine on “Great Rain,” written by Prine and Michael Campbell, mixes Prine’s weathered tones in stark contrast to Copeland’s dominating presence. “Such A Pretty Flame” finds the despondent singer struggling to find peace in the midst of the dying embers of love.

“Smoked Ham And Peaches” is a gentle ballad done acoustically with guest Rhiannon Giddens on African banjo. The pervasive calm of the song is punctuated by cutting lines like, “…Truth ain’t a rabbit, a trick that you pull from a hat. Somebody tell me what made us fall for that”. And a cover of one from Ray Davies, “I’m Not Like Everybody Else,” gives Copeland the opportunity to defiantly declare her independence, with Kimbrough’s slide guitar injecting plenty of heat in support. On “Wrong Idea,” she delvers a pointed kiss-off to any would-be bar room Lotharios, with Kenny Sears using his fiddle to add a honky-tonk flavor. Executive producer Jerry Hahn teamed with noted songwriter Mary Gauthier to pen “Americans,” allowing Copeland to remind us of the diversity of cultures that have always combined to create our unique democratic society. The disc closes with Copeland singing the traditional children’s lullaby, “Go To Sleep Little Baby,” as she has probably done many times for her own child.

Other supporting musicians include Lex Price on bass, Pete Abbott on drums, Paul Franklin on pedal steel guitar, and J.D. Wilkes on harmonica. Kimbrough creates a number of haunting musical landscapes, and Copeland does the rest, time and again turning in distinctive performances that come from the heart. Two decades further along, she leaves little doubt that she is one of the finest singers of her generation.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8 

roger c wade cd imageRoger C. Wade meets Balta Bordoy – The Schoolhouse Sessions

Steeplejack Music

CD: 13 Songs, 44:35 Minutes

Styles: Blues Covers, Ensemble Blues

In American culture, words such as “basic” and “simple” have often become derogatory. To call someone “basic,” for example, means that they only put forth the bare minimum to keep up with today’s fashion trends. We like to think that complexity is what we crave, but consider: Foreign blues artists often play purer, more authentic music because they go back to basics, not because they spurn them. Germany’s Roger C. Wade, Balta Bordoy and company are excellent examples. Their Schoolhouse Sessions serve as a primer for the genre, perfect for newcomers and veterans alike. On nine classic covers (“It Must Have Been the Devil,” “Little Baby,” “My Daily Wish,” et al.) and four original songs, they run through the blues alphabet from A to Z. Wade’s accent is noticeable, but his lyrics are credibly clear. His fellow performers bring Chuck Berry to mind in the very best way, making one remember or discover Chuck’s After-School Sessions.

British-born singer/harmonica player Roger C. Wade, also known as Little Roger, and his pianist wife Marion are based near Bonn, Germany. They have been playing 1950s-style Chicago blues and swinging R&B since the early ‘90s. In the first half of that decade, they founded Little Roger & the Houserockers, together with local blues guitarist T-Man Michalke. They have been playing together ever since and have recorded five Houserockers albums to date. This CD, however, is not one of them. It had been Roger’s longtime wish to set up a more-or-less unrehearsed, old-school recording session in a no-frills studio with good acoustics.

In 2017, while playing a small tour in Spain, Roger met Balta Bordoy, and that wish turned into a plan. Balta is a talented blues guitarist from Barcelona, who is strongly influenced by Jimmy Rogers and Robert Lockwood, Jr – the masters who basically “wrote the book” on how to back up a harmonica. To refine his skills, Bordoy has played with such harp greats as Keith Dunn and James Harman. Rounding out the band is drummer Drori Mondlak, an American-born stalwart of the Cologne jazz scene. Together, they make blues fans young again, for all are young at heart.

The following original tune is the best of the lot, showcasing the band’s compositional talent.

Track 12: “Pickin’ Chicken Boogie” – Balta Bordoy’s superb guitar skills are on full display during this instrumental, as are Marion Wade’s flying fingers on 88 keys. Not only is this ditty danceable, but one can “pick it apart” to find more and more musical meat underneath the swinging skin, concentrating on various instruments throughout several replays. Boogies such as this one are often underrated. They’re fun songs, but serious effort has been put into them.

Head on over to Roger C. Wade and Balta Bordoy’s Schoolhouse for melodic, retro Sessions!

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 

roger hill band cd imageThe Roger Hill Band – Sorcery – Live!

SAM Records

11 songs time-73:32

Sadly this is a posthumous release by a very talented guitarist from the United Kingdom. Roger Hill passed away in November 2011 working for ten years as guitarist for The Chris Barber Jazz Band, as well as a brief stint with Fairport Convention among other bands. Being as this is the first time I’m hearing of him it is a shame that someone that rose to such a high caliber of musicianship didn’t amass more recognition. On these live recordings of covers he plays with various drummers and bass players in a strictly trio format except for one vocal turn by New Waver Steve Gibbons.

His capable voice comes across like a less subdued Mose Allison on “I Got A Gal”. His jazz guitar side is displayed on this track. The strong version of John Lee Hooker’s “Dimples” showcases the clean recording separation of the instruments. J.J. Cale’s “The Same Old Blues” features some sturdy bass playing to support Roger’s guitar greatness. His former boss Steve Gibbons contributes a cheeky vocal to the old standard “Ain’t She Sweet”, that features some jazzy guitar playing. “Three Thirty Blues” is a lowdown slow blues burner instrumental.

Slow, bluesy and jazzy is their take on “St. Louis Blues”. The vocal is coarse and the song goes up and down in intensity on “Evening”. The Mose Allison reference comes in once again as Roger covers “Sticks & Stones”, a Ray Charles tune also known as done by Joe Cocker. It includes some spot on blues guitar. He does an able cover of Jimmy Reed’s “Runnin” & Hidin'”, while taking a few liberties with the lyrics. A curious cover song is The Clash’s “Brand New Cadillac” that features some raucous guitar antics. Although his version of “Hey Joe” builds in its attack it leaves out any Hendrix like guitar pyrotechnics.

Quite a master of guitar technique is on display here, but sadly it came too late to our American ears. Too bad he went under the radar here in the states. As far as I know this live recording is the only thing he had put out. At least this live presentation goes a long way to honor his contribution to music.

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

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 Featured Interview – JP Soars 

jp soars photo 1Stylish guitarist/vocalist JP Soars exploded onto the scene about a decade ago after walking away with top honors in the 2009 International Blues Challenge and has been enjoying the limelight ever since, but few folks recognize him as a former member of one of the biggest bands ever in the field of death metal – it’s a secret he hid from even those closest to him in the blues community as he worked his way to the top.

A gentle, soft-spoken man with a slight, but distinctive, smoky drawl, Blues Blast caught up with him one recent afternoon when was revisiting his musical roots by listening to six-string pioneer T-Bone Walker’s classic recordings on the Imperial label. But the sounds filling JP’s ears as a child definitely were different.

Born John Paul Soars in California, he spent his early years in Cedarville, Ark., a small town of 1,300-plus residents about 30 minutes east of the Oklahoma border high in the Ozarks. “My mom’s side of the family was from Arkansas,” he says, “and my dad grew up in California. In 1972, they took a trip east to visit my mom’s grandpa, and my dad fell in love with it – the country and the hills. They rented a place for $25 a month with no runnin’ water and no electricity. That was the first place we lived in. My parents were hippies and stuff.”

JP’s father, John Martin Soars, played acoustic guitar and harmonica. He was into Bob Dylan, Neil Young, the Beatles and the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, one of the most popular bands of the era.

“My uncle, who was visiting, went up and saw them in Fayetteville and bought the record with ‘If You Wanna Get To Heaven (You Gotta Raise A Little Hell)’ on it,” Soars recalls. My folks just fell in love with it. I was about three years old at the time, and they played it all the time I was growin’ up.”

His interest in the guitar came early – thanks to house parties that stretched late into the night.

“My dad’s buddies would come over and be sittin’ around, jamming,” he says. “I used to sit there…mesmerized. They’d be laughing and carrying on, just havin’ a blast. I’ve always associated that with peaceful, happy times in the household.”

John Martin started teaching JP chords when he was about 11. “And whatever he showed me, I could play it. I learned a lot of the basic stuff – cowboy chords, if you wanna call ‘em that.”

He enjoyed the different sounds that filled the air, but his musical tastes changed dramatically when he heard hard rockers Metallica. “A buddy of mine gave me one of their cassette tapes – Master Of Puppets, which, at the time, was a groundbreaking record,” he says. “There was nothin’ in the world that sounded like that.

“I remember thinkin’: ‘Holy sh-t! This is cool. I wanna make my guitar sound like that!”

Founded in Los Angeles by Danish-born drummer Lars Ulrich and featuring guitarists Dave Mustaine and James Hetfield, Metallica dominated JP’s early teens — as did Ozzy Osbourne and other heavy metal gods.

At 16, Soars and his family moved from his tiny hamlet to West Palm Beach and the booming metropolis that stretched to the Keys in southeast Florida. It was an area where hard rock and big hair dominated the night scene, so much so, in fact, that the band Malevolent Creation, one of the founding fathers of death metal, decided to pull up stakes in Buffalo, N.Y., about the same time and moved to West Palm, too.

jp soars photo 2The new surroundings were a real culture shock for JP, who had spent kindergarten through ten grade surrounded by the same 35 classmates year after year. As he entered 11th grade at Forest Hill High School, he was in a student population almost double He now found himself in a high school whose student population was almost double the size of the town from which he’d moved.

As Soars added an electric guitar to his arsenal and his love for heavy metal and his desire for rock stardom continued to grow, his musical tastes began to branch out dramatically about two years later.

He won a guitar – a Gibson SG — in a raffle along with two tickets to see B.B. King in concert. “Part of the deal was that my dad and I would get to meet him backstage and get him to sign the guitar,” JP remembers. “I was into Jimi Hendrix and ZZ Top at the time – stuff that my uncles were into. The blues is definitely in there, and it’s in some of the Beatles’ stuff, too. They were bluesy, but nothin’ like this!

“This was my introduction to the real blues.

“We sat front row center stage, and I was mesmerized. Holy cow! This was just amazing. It was very powerful. He had the full band with the horn section and everything. Just his stage presence and persona, the feel I got from it…I didn’t know a lot of his songs…I barely knew ‘The Thrill Is Gone’…but it just blew me away – the emotion and soulfulness of it.

“His singing, the power of his voice and the stories he told were definitely life-changing. Then when we met him backstage, the thing I remember most was how he made me feel when he sat down to talk to me – how humble and down-to-earth he was.

“I remember when we handed him the guitar to sign it, he was like: ‘This is an awful pretty guitar. You sure you want me to sign this?’

“I always carry that with me,” JP says. “This guy was a living legend, and he talked to me like he’d known me for years. It made me feel comfortable.”

Soars practiced for months with high school friends for a metal gig at an Italian festival, but didn’t join a real band until after graduation. Basically self-taught, he now loved the blues but intrinsically knew he didn’t know how to play it.

From seeing B.B., however, he realized that the blues truly was timeless. As time passed, he started attending blues jams and he began picking up pointers. Whenever he heard a guitarist who captured his ears and attention, he was curious enough to ask questions and started picking up tips.

“Slowly but surely, I finally got up enough courage to sit in,” he says.

Although a neophyte bluesman, Soars already was starting to make a name for himself in metal – something he made sure not to mention to the blues crowd. He was in several local outfits in the years that followed — Burner, Mask Of Innocence, Wynjara and Human Plague – before an eight-year run with the thrash metal band Raped Ape, which had a large fan following throughout the Southeast.

Rape Ape was playing the same local circuit as Malevolent Creation, which also had a huge international following, and several of that band’s members were JP’s friends. They were looking for a new guitarist in 1996 about the same time Soars’ band disbanded.

JP volunteered for the opening and quickly was offered and accepted the gig. Together they produced the album In Cold Blood. The band was booked for a European tour the following year, when Soars was forced to make a judgment call and walk away because he didn’t want to lose the day job he held with Motorola.

jp soars photo 3But metal remained in his blood. Soon after, he formed Devine Empire, hard rockers who had their own major following and four eventual CDs to their credit.

All the while, unbeknownst to his metal bandmates, he was working on his blues chops and getting more and more involved on the side.

“A lot of times, people will ask me: ‘When did you make the switch?’” Soars says. But there was never any defining time when I said to myself: ‘I’m gonna stop playin’ this style of music and start playin’ that one.’”

As he states today, in his mind, there are only two kinds of music – good and bad – and his goal as a musician has always been to play in style that’s capable of entertaining a teenager or a grandmother at the same time. And he realized something else even more profound, too: “Even back then, I knew that I’m not gonna be playin’ this metal stuff forever. I knew that most popular music as we know it was derived from this (the blues). That was the way to go”

It was a simple choice for him to make, but took him the better part of a decade before making the final decision. He eased into it by spending his free time away from metal playing alongside South Florida harmonica legend Billy Burns, a very young Joel DaSilva and his band, The Sideburns or another local favorite, The Shadowcasters, whenever he was available.

“I learned a ton of stuff playing with those guys. But I’d play with them for months – until I had their approval for what I was doing — before I let on that I was doin’ anything else,” he says. “I didn’t want ‘em thinkin’ that I was some metalhead dude tryin’ to play blues.

“Then I’d be: ‘Oh, by the way, check out this metal band that I’m in… Here’s this album…’

“They’d go: ‘What the hell…! How do you go from this to that?’”

Soars did encounter some issues juggling the best of both worlds.

After spending three or four weeks on the road with the metal band, it was a real shock to his system to pick up a blues gig and entertaining a room of well-behaved middle-agers instead of a concert hall full of young, screaming, energetic diehard fans. And it also took a couple of blues gigs to ratchet back his vocals after spending weeks singing at the top of his lungs for the rockers.

JP decided to walk away from metal in 2005 after returning to the U.S. after touring Europe with Empire. It was an easy choice to make.

“We came home and I told the bass player: ‘I don’t wanna do this anymore,’” he recalls. “One of the things for me was that I kept seeing myself getting older and the crowd getting younger. I didn’t want to be 55 or 60 years old and still doing it.”

There was another reason, too. It didn’t set well with JP that Empire would go overseas and tour with four or five other bands. They’d be restricted to a 45-minute set each night and make room for someone else.

“I’d be sayin’ to myself: ‘This is fun. I’m enjoyin’ myself, gettin’ to see the world and experiencin’ different cultures. But how cool would it be to be out here, travelin’ the world and playin’ blues?’” he says. “I always thought I’d have a much better time playin’ this kind of music. I enjoyed it more. It was more fulfilling. It expressed more emotions.

“With the death metal stuff, it’s basically one emotion: It’s fast, pissed off, angry. Sure, it’s an emotion, which is great. We all have that at some point or another. But with the blues, you can express everything. It’s got so much of a wider array of feelings. And then there are the dynamics. When you get quiet, that’s more powerful that when you’re super loud.”

In the months that followed, Soars started a blues band, a three-piece that initially included Chris Peet on drums and Gary Remington on bass. As they made their mark, they also doubled as the backing band for recent arrival Terry Hanck. A perennial Blues Music Award nominee and the current reigning sax player of the year, he’d recently relocated from the San Francisco Bay area.

jp soars photo 5JP credits Terry with teaching him the basics about leading a blues band. “Watching him as a front man, I learned how to run the show,” Soars says. “And he turned me on to a lot of great music that I might have heard of but never really heard yet. Like Guitar Slim and Fats Domino. I’d go and download their whole catalog and put it into my iTunes.”

When schedules permit – Hanck splits his time between East and West Coast and JP is often busy with his own projects, their relationship that continues today.

Soars made his first trip to the International Blues Challenge in 2007, backing Fort Lauderdale-based David Shelley. Like JP, Shelley was a California native. A blues-rocker and actor who was a grandson of one of the founders of Capitol Records, he released two critically acclaimed albums of his own before losing a lengthy battle with cancer a few years ago.

They lost out to the eventual winner, Sean Carney. But for Soars, it was another life-changing experience.

“We made it to the finals and played at the Rum Boogie Café, which is one of the coolest clubs on Beale Street,” he remembers. “It was a pivotal moment – that and getting to see and meet all of the musicians. And it was my first time to Memphis, so I got to visit the Stax Museum and Sun Studios.”

Soars returned the following year, but the feeling was much different.

“I went with my own band,” he says. “It was a four-piece at the time with a keyboard player. We didn’t win. We didn’t even make it into the finals. We were playing at B.B. King’s and I tried catering to what everybody was telling me: ‘Oh, they’re lookin’ for this, they’re lookin’ for that. You gotta dress like this, you gotta play like that. Don’t play too loud because the judges will deduct points.

“I went out there playin’ like a caged rat.”

The Kansas City-based powerhouse Trampled Under Foot dominated. But Soars was still undeterred. Returning in 2009, he stripped the band down to its essence as a trio and “went with the mindset that I’m not listenin’ to any body. I’m just gonna play what feels good and play songs that get a good reaction when we’re home.”

The rest, as they say, is history. JP and the Red Hots – the name was suggested in class by a friend in eighth grade when Soars was daydreaming about music stardom — captured top honors and have been wowing audiences ever since.

“That opened up a ton of doors,” he says. “Now, instead of being a local Florida band, we were traveling the country – soon the world.”

Since 2011, Soars has also been making occasional festival appearances as a member of Southern Hospitality, a supergroup that also includes Memphis-based Victor Wainwright and North Florida-based guitarist/songwriter Damon Fowler. That group started by accident one night when the Red Hots gigging at a club in Delray Beach, Fla., and both Wainwright – a two-time Blues Music Association Pinetop Perkins Award winner as keyboard player of the year — and Fowler were in the crowd. Soars invited them up to jam during his last set.

“We played for a while, and it was magical,” Victor told this writer a few years ago. “The next thing you know, somebody suggested we form a group. We were kinda laughing about that at the end of the night. I said all right, but it was just talk. After all, were already really, really busy with our own bands.”

A few weeks later, however, a representative of the Heritage Music Blues Festival in Wheeling, W.Va., placed a desperate call to Fowler’s booking agency, seeking a replacement for the legendary David “Honeyboy” Edwards, who was in failing health, in his mid-90s and unable to appear.

jp soars photo 4The trio took the gig at Fowler’s suggestion. The night before the show, all three were scattered across the country and playing with their own groups. They all arrived in Wheeling around 5 a.m. and took the stage without sleep or any rehearsals. Much like that night in Florida, their set consisted of jams from their three individual repertoires.

The reception they received was overwhelming, and they’ve subsequently released one album, Easy Livin’ on the Blind Pig imprint, which placed in the Top Ten in the 2013 Billboard blues charts. Now festival favorites, they continue to work together about a half-dozen special events a year.

“We do it so little that, when we do get together, it’s all fresh and special,” JP says. “Everyone’s having a blast. Those guys are such talented musicians, it’s really fun.”

But Soars isn’t all death metal and blues. There’s another side to him, too – one that will come as a surprise to anyone who hasn’t heard it: He’s a huge fan of jazzman Django Reinhardt, one of the greatest musicians of the 20th Century despite sustaining injuries in a fire that left him partially paralyzed and without the use of the fourth and fifth fingers of his left hand.

Born in Belgium and a member of the Romani people, the migratory clan better known as Gypsies, Reinhardt founded the legendary Hot Club Of France along with violin virtuoso Stephane Grappelli. His unit was one of the first in the world to feature the guitar as a lead instrument as it played bepop, traditional Romani music and what came to be known as gypsy jazz.

If you’re lucky, you’ll catch JP and the Red Hots on a night when they open with a set of their own music and follow it with a full set of Django-inspired jazz. And you’ll be amazed at how much technique Soars – a virtually self-taught guitarist — has developed in that area after years of practice.

“I learned about Django initially when I was working at Motorola,” Soars says. “I met this dude Pierre there. He was from France and had just gotten to the States three or four months before. He’d studied at a conservatory over there, so he knew a lot of theory. I learned a lot from him chord-wise and music-wise.

“After Pierre turned me on to Django, I immediately went out and bought all of his stuff. Pierre knew some of that style and taught me a little.”

He learned a great deal more from Argentinian Gonzalo Bergara, who was still a teenager when he was based in South Florida. Now in his late 30s and recognized as a virtuoso guitarist and gypsy jazz composer, Bergara was influenced deeply by Reinhardt, formed a band and welcomed Soars as his rhythm player.

“About a year later, he moved out to California,” JP recalls. “By then, I knew all these songs – the rhythm, at least, which is one of the hardest things to cop because, in true Django style, there’s no drum; the rhythm and bass guitar are the drums, playing counterpoint to the lead. There’s a certain way you have to use your right hand. I studied that and worked on it for months – four or five hours a day sittin’ with a metronome.”

He also worked on his technique while working at a small music store in Boca Raton after Bergara’s departure. One of Soars’ co-workers was another young, talented guitar player, Steve Laudicina. An eventual long-time Red Hot, he now tours nationally with harmonica player Rockin’ Jake and his new band, Toro Jones, a rising star on the surf pop/rockabilly circuit.

During the time, JP started teaching Laudicina the rhythm patterns in an effort to begin teaching himself Django melodies and solos. “We’d sit it the store all day long and play,” he says.

jp soars photo 6Eventually, they put together a working band built like Reinhardt’s Hot Club – complete with a violinist.

“I focused on that for two or three years,” Soars says. “But after 2008, after goin’ up to the IBCs and winning a year later, it shifted to the Red Hots. After the opportunity I was presented in the blues, I knew that I had to focus 120 per cent to parlay it into a career that would bring me work outside of Florida.

“Now, I try to incorporate everything into what we’re doin’…whatever feels good at the time. I have this theory that if it feels good to me when I’m playin’, it’s gonna translate to the audience. They’re gonna feel it, too. It’s all connected.”

And it works.

His band is currently home in South Florida after spending most of the summer on the road, promoting their sixth album, Southbound I-95, a disc that took more than two years to create. “With the touring schedule we have, we don’t usually have the luxury of taking two or three weeks off to go into the studio and record,” JP says. “We do it when we can. And I also like to take the time to work everything out and get it as good as we possibly can.”

That CD features guest appearances from Jimmy Thackery and Albert Castiglia on guitars, Sax Gordon on horn and Jason Newsted of Metallica on bass with Lee Oskar of WAR/The Lowriders on harmonica.

“I never thought in a million years that I’d get Jason to play on a blues album,” JP chuckles. And the band just recorded a video for the title track, which is viewable on their website (address below).

Thanks to the tourist season in Florida and venues spread out from Key West to Jacksonville and Pensacola, they’re booked steady locally for the next few months and tour nationally again until spring. And when they do, they’ll be celebrating the release of another CD that’s sure to break new ground from what’s come before.

This past January, when Soars and Peet traveled to Houma, La., where they recorded at Tab Benoit’s studio. Benoit produced the Southern Hospitality disc and handles drum duties here with Chris, JP’s regular percussionist, making use of the prodigious talents he has on bass, too. The album should drop shortly after the first of the year on Tab’s Whiskey Bayou label.

It will include eight new songs, all penned in the studio, as well as four covers, one of which – a new take on the Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ “If You Wanna Get To Heaven” — is a flashback to JP’s youth. “When I called my parents and told ‘em,” he says, “they were just in heaven. They were trippin’ out!”

He remains eternally thankful for the support he’s received through the years. “Thanks so much for allowing me to do this and to do what I love,” he says. “If it wasn’t for folks coming to gigs and buying CDs and appreciating this stuff, I wouldn’t be doing something that’s always been my dream and to put smiles on people’s faces while doing it.”

For more information about Soars and the Red Hots and to check out his schedule, view his new video or pick up his CDs,

Interviewer Marty unther 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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