Issue 12-44 November 8 2018

Cover photo © 2018 Jami Valladao

 In This Issue 

Tee Watts has our feature interview with Henry Oden. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Sandy Carroll, Doug Deming & the Jewel Tones, Justin Saladino Band, Steve Howell and the Mighty Men, The Record Company, Urban Allstars, Dustin Douglas & The Electric Gentlemen and The Bennett Brothers.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

sandy carroll cd imageSandy Carroll – Blues & Angels

Catfood Records – 2018

11 songs; 47 minutes

Hailing originally from McNairy County in West Tennessee (home of sheriff Buford Pusser of Walking Tall fame), singer-songwriter-pianist Sandy Carroll and her Grammy-winning producer husband Jim Gaines, now make their home and studio some two hours east of Memphis, TN.

Carroll spent the early part of her career singing in venues throughout the South, and began writing songs – alone, or with a writing partner – in the early 80s, many of which were subsequently recorded by folks like Albert King, Luther Allison, Preston Shannon, and Barbara Blue. She released her debut album, Southern Woman, in 1993. Blues & Angels is Carroll’s 7th album, and her fourth for the Catfood Records label.

The songs on this album are all originals, penned by Carroll and co-writers including long-time collaborator Mark Namore, along with William Lee Ellis, and Stephanie C Brown. The album pulls together an eclectic mix that represent a cross-section of Americana and roots styles, including ballads, blues, gospel, adult contemporary, contemporary Christian, new country, and some New Orleans-inspired grooves.

Produced by Gaines, Blues & Angels features Carroll on piano and vocals, along with a stellar group of studio pros, including guitar ace Will McFarlane. There are guest appearances by Johnny Rawls, Rocky Athas, and Bernard Allison. The rhythm section includes Steve Potts, Dave Smith, Rick Steff, Derrick Young, and Steve Selvidge, along with Muscle Shoals veterans David Hood, Clayton Ivy and Justin Holder. Background vocalists include Reba Russell, Rachel Robinson, Nancy Apple, Lorina McMinn, Trey Hardin, Daunielle Hill and Barbara Blue.

Top tracks include the opener, “Soak Me in the Spirit,” a mid-tempo blues with a solid gospel groove and some tasty guitar from McFarlane. “Somebody Gotta Dance” is a solid mid-tempo country rocker with a catchy, gospel-y refrain. “Wrapped in an Angel” is a slow, moody piece that features Mark Narmore on piano, a rhythm section including Dave Smith and Steve Potts, Trinecia Butler on backup vocals, and some wonderfully understated guitar fills from McFarlane.

“Mama Don’t Like It” is a mid-tempo country rocker with a quasi-feminist message. “Headin’ Home” is the funkiest track on the album, complete with vintage wah-wah guitar and some suitably greasy organ, creating a solid groove. “Road Angel,” with its propulsive quarter-note bass groove, vintage-sounding electric piano, and subtle slide guitar weaving in and out of the track, could easily be at home on a Bonnie Raitt album. The album’s intimate closer, “Mississippi Me,” feels like its most personal track. It’s stripped-down to just the basics – piano and vocals – and is solid in both songwriting and performance.

The 11 tracks on this collection are strong, both compositionally and lyrically. The arrangements and playing are very tight, if somewhat dispassionate. It would have been interesting to have heard these same songs produced in a “live” studio environment. Unlike with her previous efforts, Carroll approaches many of these vocals with a languid breathiness. It’s a stylistic choice, perhaps intending “smokiness,” but it comes off as more of an affectation, and has an odd impact on both her pitch and her timing. This approach is, for the most part, a distraction from the otherwise solid songs themselves.

Blues & Angels is definitely worth a listen or three; the songwriting is solid and personal, and the studio bands provide a crisp foundation. But I would encourage listeners to also check out some of her earlier works – and live performances, for that matter – to get a better sense of Carroll’s solid vocal capabilities.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8 

doug demming cd imageDoug Deming & the Jewel Tones – Complicated Mess

EllerSoul Records – 2018

13 tracks; 50 minutes

Doug Deming is originally from Detroit where for years he was the go-to guy to provide support for visiting musicians such as Kim Wilson and the late Lazy Lester. He relocated to the Tampa Bay area of Florida some eight years ago and since then has built up a strong local following at many clubs on the West coast of the state as well as touring across the US and Europe. His fourth CD release was recorded at Big Jon Atkinson’s California studio and the album marks something of a departure for Doug as he begins to move away from the format of a quartet with a harp player. For several years he has played in Florida with Madison Slim and toured with Dennis Gruenling but Slim has retired and Dennis has established a partnership with Nick Moss, so this CD finds Doug in transition, using harp players on just four tracks but adding sax to several others, as well as sharing guitar duties on two tracks with Little Charlie Baty. Doug handles lead vocals and guitar, Andrew Gohman is on bass and experienced drummer Marty Dodson completes the core band with Kim Wilson and Madison Slim on harp on two tracks each; Sax Gordon and Tino Barker add tenor and baritone sax to four tracks and Chris Codish on organ and Bob Welsh on piano also contribute; former band drummer Sam Farmer appears on one cut.

Doug’s ten vintage sounding originals are combined with three covers which show Doug’s varied influences: “You Rascal You” has been recorded by Louis(s) Armstrong, Jordan and Prima, this light, jazzy version benefiting from Little Charlie Baty’s additional guitar; Doug has played behind Lazy Lester and “Blues Stop Knockin’” is terrific with Kim Wilson wailing on harp, Bob Welsh on piano and the band getting up a real head of steam; Fats Domino’s “I’m Walkin’’ is played in T-Bone Walker rather than New Orleans style, propelled by Andrew’s double bass and the horns, Gordon taking a fine solo.

Doug shows that he knows Crescent City music on his own “Just A Moment Of Your Time”’ and “Someday Pretty Baby” has the voodoo beat we also associate with New Orleans, the horns adding to both tracks. “Need My Baby” is a rolling shuffle, the only track recorded in Florida, with some high-pitched harp from Madison Slim and Sam Farmer on drums. Kim Wilson’s harp on “Sweet Poison” adds an eerie tone to a moody song of fatal attraction. “Cookin’ At The Kitchen” introduces us to the cast of characters at the band’s local haunt in Florida (including Blues Blast’s own Mark Thompson – “music is his drug”). The title track features some fine picking and “Deep Blue Sea” features some of Doug’s deepest slow blues playing, enhanced by some great piano from Bob. The joyous “Hold On” (co-written by Doug’s wife Claudia) has classic Memphis rhythm guitar and organ on a soul-blues tune, showing a completely different side to Doug’s playing. Two contrasting instrumentals complete this fine album: “Captain’s Quarters” is a relaxed jazz-tinged conversation between Doug and Little Charlie, the title perhaps inspired by Doug’s other main activity, skippering a charter fishing boat in the Gulf; “Rat Killin’” is a fast-paced finale with the horns pushing the band and short solo features for everyone.

Any blues fans visiting the Tampa Bay area should make sure they catch a show by this band on their home turf or keep an eye open for them touring elsewhere: meanwhile all discerning blues fans need to add this superb CD to their collection.

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 – 3 of 8 

justin saladinoband cd imageJustin Saladino Band – A Fool’s Heart

Production Bros

12 songs/53 minutes

Justin Saladino’sA Fool’s Heart is a pleasant R&B influenced, John Mayer soft-rock informed, guitar based ride. Montreal’s native 23 year-old son is a guitar wizard and feel-good chill-vibes phenom. With a smooth voice, boyish good looks and guitar chops to spare, Saladino is an adult-contemporary monster. But warning fair Blues Blast reader, this is not strictly speaking Blues. There are a few classic soul styled ballads and a bit of Blues Rock guitar wailing, but mostly this is a record of soft-funk with neo-yacht rock hooks.

Credited to the Justin Saladino Band, A Fool’s Heart is a great sounding well performed record. A.J. Aboud on drums/percussion and Gabriel Forget on bass create a super tight foundation for Saladino and guitarist Felix Blackburn to work on. Cleanly produced guitars with layers of overdubs, make the music stand out. Saladino and Blackburn work in perfect sync making it indistinguishable who is playing which parts. Beatrice Keeler adds vocals, David Osei-Afrifa keys, Remi Cormier trumpet and flugelhorn and Connor Seidel additional percussion.

A Fool’s Heart is a focused album of all original material. The basic songwriting thesis appears to be: take 70’s R&B and Funk riffs, affix a feel good “Your Body is A Wonderland” style chorus to it and record it with modern production. Record openers “A Fool I’ll Stay” and “Honey” lay out the basic framework clearly. “Fool” is a swaying riffy meditation on loving in spite of yourself. The verses of “Honey” could be an Earth, Wind and Fire outtake before it takes a modern feel-good chorus turn. There are a number of ballads and the basic old/new mashup holds. Stand out track “Put the Hammer Down” is a horn flecked acoustic Jack Johnson meets Lynyrd Skynyrd ode to denial and projecting. Outlier “Third Week of June” is more of a Laurel Canyon does Country song with a 2 step feel and rootsy yearning lyrics, again with a modern sounding chorus.

This record is full of reflections on life and love. The lyrics at times dangerously border on self-help platitudes. This seems to be the trend in a lot of modern music, e.g. Modern Country. That kind of plain spoken overly straightforward, and utterly guileless, type of songwriting has also been invading Blues. Similarly the music lacks a certain bite and danger. Even when Saladino gets his distorted guitar wail on, there is a polish and controlled restraint (not the good kind of tense Buddy Guy holding back a tsunami restraint) to his playing that stops the music just short of pushing through to a more emotional place.

For your humble reviewer, lyrical cleverness and a bit of tightrope walking tension and/or menace are essential elements for music to be thought of as Blues. The only song on this record that fits the bill is “Bad Habit.” A deep pocketed Funk jam, this song never relents to the adult-contempo turns of its brethren. Co-written with Jessica Spilak, this song is a simple lament to bad habits. In full James Brown mode, Saladino sings with syncopated urgency. The music is less produced and has a live feel. Justin Saladino is a talented musician with a number of strengths. “Bad Habits” shows that he can get down when he wants to. A hope from this appreciative listener is that he can develop his pop sensibility into something deeper and more emotional while letting more of his bad habits shake out into his art.

Reviewer Bucky O’Hare is a Bluesman based in Boston who spreads his brand of blues and funk all over New England. Bucky has dedicated himself to experiencing the Blues and learning its history. As a writer, Bucky has been influenced by music critics and social commentators such as Angela Davis, Peter Guralnick, Eric Nisenson, Francis Davis and Henry Louis Gates Jr.

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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 8 

steve howell cd imageSteve Howell and the Mighty Men – Good As I Been To You

Out Of The Past Music

11 tracks

Steve Howell has spent the past 40 years fingerpicking his way across Texas, the Southwest, the US and the UK, playing folk country blues and traditional jazz. This is his third album with the Might Men, a quartet of Texarkana musicians. Joining them is Katy Hobgood Ray, a singer, songwriter and children’s book author from Louisiana. The Mighty Men are Chris Michaels also on guitar and vocals, Dave Hoffpauir on drums and vocals, and Jason Weinheimer on bass, organ and vocals. Dave Ray also appears on vocals.

The album opens with “Bacon Fat,” originally written and performed by Andre Williams. I always enjoy Howell’s approach to the guitar. He plays some stinging electric guitar here. His vocals smack of the down home, back country Texas. Next up is Huddie Ledbetter’s “When I Was A Cowboy (Out On The Western Plain)” which was first heard by Alan Lomax when Leadbelly was still in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Here the tempo is slowed way down and Katy joins Steve for a duet. Howell’s nasal vocals contrast with Ray’s sweet sound as they follow the metered pacing. More ringing guitar tones, resemble ng a cowboy tune rather than Leadbelly. “New Dirty Dozens” is a Memphis Minnie 1930 song that Ray takes on as a country tune. Another slowed down interpretation with electric guitar in a slow swing mode. The next track is “It Hurts To Be In Love,” a NYC Brill Building song Gene Pitney made famous in 1964. Howell once again takes a slower tact, giving this a whole new feel. I’m not sure it worked for me. Walter Davis’ “Come Back Baby” is next, a 1940 cut also covered by Ray Charles and so many others. It begins with a pretty acoustic guitar intro. Again the pacing is turned down and it gives the tune a very dark edge. “Blues In The Bottle” is a Prince Albert Hunt Texas Ramblers 1928 Okeh Records western swing hit. Sans a fiddle and with a slower tempo, this softer and less swinging style is somewhat interesting.

Leadbelly’s “Easy Rider” is sung by Katy here. The pacing remains slow and easy. Instead of the normal feel, we get a more softer and quiet country feel to the cut. “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Any More” was a Frankie Valli hit in 1965 and also a Walker Brothers hit in 1966. Howell remains in a tempo far from the original once again. It becomes very somber in his take on the song. Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Bad Luck Blues” also takes a somewhat slower tempo that the East Texas original. The electric guitar is pretty. Clarence Harmon’s “Lining Track” is a call and response song used by railroad workers that Howell leads with the band in response. While slow, it has a cool appeal to it and Howell seems comfy acapella here. Things close with Blind Blake’s “You Gonna Quit Me” which was again much slower paced than the original. Howell offers up a nice solo on his electric guitar.

Howell’s approach to this entire CD seems to take a step back with each cut and make it into a slow country folk blues. It works at times, but it seems over done after 11 songs all done in the same style. The guitar work and backing music is really good. The vocals are far too slow paced for me to be in any kind of comfort zone with them. Things are on key and as intended, but I’d prefer an intent that moved along a bit faster. It might not be my cup of tea, but fans of Howell and this style might just grab on to it and enjoy it. It’s perhaps something to sit and listen to as the weather cools down and life slows down from it’s faster summer pace.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

record company cd imageThe Record Company – All Of This Life

Concord Records

10 tracks

Building on the success of their first album, The Record Company show even more ambition and chops in this great second release. Three hit songs from the first album and a Grammy Nomination make the first album hard to beat, but this sophomore release is even better! The Record Company is Chris Vos on vocals and guitar, Alex Stiff on bass, and Marc Cazorla on drums. This powerful trio is making waves in the blues world!

The album opens to the driving beat of “Life To Fix,” a tune that espouses taking one step at a time and moving forward against life’s adversities. The driving beat and beautiful supplementing backing vocals support Vos beautifully. It’s a great hook to grab you and make you pay attention. The distorted guitar solo adds to the joyful frenzy and tumult. “I’m Getting Better (And I’m Felling It Right Now) features some pretty harp work and is built on Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited era of his work. It’s blues meets country meets punk rock jumbled together and it works well, maintaining the hellish, driving tempo from the first cut. Next is “Goodbye To The Hard Life” which takes the beat down many notches. Vos sings a little falsetto in this ballad, perhaps mimicking the style of Led Zeppelin. The song builds and adds depth and emotion as it goes on to conclusion. The slide is broken out for “Make It Happen,” which continues the theme of going after what you want to achieve. A throbbing beat and strident vocals and backing vocals make this a big cut that grabs you. It’s hill country blues done with a little R&B and modern sound and I loved it. The slide stays out for the country blues rock ballad “You And Me Now.” It reminds me a little of Hootie and the Blowfish, Eric Lindell and JJ Grey blended together with some pretty acoustic guitar. Good stuff.

“Coming Home” starts the second half of the CD. The beat picks up again and your foots starts tapping and it makes you want to get up and groove to the beat. These guys know how to craft music that grabs you and makes you want to become part of it. The mid to high tempo throbbing is exhilarating. Simple, repetitive lyrics and a little piano mixed in for fun and a dirty lead vocal and guitar just make this all the better. Up next is “The Movie Song,” another cut in the mode of “You And Me Now” but more up tempo in approach. A story in a song, so to speak, with acoustic slide and backing pedal/lap steel and the clear and effective vocals sell this one. “Night Games” follows, has a cool vocal mix, some call and response with falsetto backing vocals that just sound so sweet. The beat and guitars move the song along and the vocals layered on the beat is very cool. “Roll Bones” begins with a bass and drumstick intro that switches to some nasty harp that once again makes the listener take notice. Hot blues, a scorching beat and it’s another winner. The album concludes with “I’m Changing,” a country or southern blues with sparse acoustic guitar and vocals and lyrics that are a little dark. The two-paged One Sheet hearkens the song to Johnny Cash; I agree with that song-wise but the vocal style of Vos is his and his alone. He sings about changing his love The harp solo about 2/3 way through the song is a nice addition as Vos’ emotions build throughout the song. A simple yet effective close to a very fine album.

There are ten wonderful new songs here and these guys are the real deal. This is an album that shows how the blues can remain young and fresh. Wandering through the sounds of the country, the hills and other places, the music takes on it’s own form and makes the listener personally feel what this trio puts into their songs an music. This is a fantastic album, plain and simple. I urge you to listen to it ASAP!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

urban allstars cd imageUrban Allstars – Loitering On the West Side

Cee Pee Vee Record Co.

15 songs/48 minutes

What would it be like if a band of all-star technicians took a “The Band” approach to classic Chicago Blues? The answer is the Swedish Urban Allstars’ excellent 2016 Loitering On the West Side. Three fine lead singers (hello Levon, Danko and Richard) take turns laying down a historical reenactment of 50’s-60’s era Blues. A telepathic rhythm section plays with authenticity and depth just like Levon and Danko used to. A duel guitar front, replacing the Garth Hudson/Richard Manuel duel keys, play with styles indebted to Jimmy Rogers and Buddy Guy.

Loitering On the West Side is a pure pleasure to listen to if you enjoy authentic, old-school Blues. This is not a solo artist bringing a band along on their specific trip like B.B. King and T-Bone Walker did. This is not a down home acoustic back porch song-pull like Jimbo Mathus or Corey Harris often preside over. This is not a retro swinging greased up throwback act like the indomitable Rick Estrin and the Nightcats. This record is a purely distilled egalitarian shot of group playing that shines because there isn’t a single stand out performer. This group dynamic is right in line with the excellent 50’s and 60’s Chess records.

The Urban Allstars nail the classic Chicago aesthetic with their slavish adherence to authentic sounds. The guitar sounds are perfectly pure overdrive, none of the more modern distortion sounds that pop up so much in Blues Rock pedal-boards. The drums have lots of uncompressed headroom for cymbals to chime out and snare hits to expand. Coupled with the use of an acoustic double bass, the rhythm section injects air into the recording in a way that allows the listener to be in the room with the musicians.

The material here is almost all covers but the song choices are not the obvious material. No “Hoochie Coochie Man” or “Howlin’ For My Darlin’.” Lazy Lester’s “They Call Me Lazy” has the original’s great slow drag. These guys dug deep covering 2 songs from the esoteric godfather of androgyny, and Little Richard influence, Esquerita (Eskew Reeder Jr.). “Laid Off” and “She Left Me Crying” are super fun romps and the Allstars let the material’s wit and charm shine through. Even the two more obvious covers work really well and sound fresh. A reworked Robert Johnson-light version of “Stop Breaking Down” attributed to a “J.L. Williamson” opens the album with a great Sonny Boy Williamson II feel. And, Albert King’s oft-covered “Blues At Sunrise” burns brightly in part due to a sharp and non-King like lead guitar performance.

At 15 songs Loitering On the West Side is a little long. Because the sounds and material are so locked into a singular style and vision, things start to get a little repetitive if you listen straight through. This is isn’t an issue if you have the album in a mix, but you will have to download the CD because this record is not available digitally. However, find this CD and add it to your favorite Blues playlist. It is filled with buoyant, staggering and swaggering, foundational electric Blues.

“Them Dangerous Gentleman,” as they call themselves in the liner notes, are: Thomas Grahn – vocals, harmonica, Thomas Hammarland – vocals, guitar, Cleas Parmland – guitar, Fredrik Von Werder – piano, Urban Hed – bass, Tommy Moberg – vocals, drums

Reviewer Bucky O’Hare is a Bluesman based in Boston who spreads his brand of blues and funk all over New England. Bucky has dedicated himself to experiencing the Blues and learning its history. As a writer, Bucky has been influenced by music critics and social commentators such as Angela Davis, Peter Guralnick, Eric Nisenson, Francis Davis and Henry Louis Gates Jr.

 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8 

dustin douglas cd imageDustin Douglas & The Electric Gentlemen – Break It Down

Quad-D Records

13 tracks

Dustin Douglas & The Electric Gentlemen are touted as purveyors of late 60s and 70’s blues-laced rock-n-roll. Hailing from Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, this power rock trio is, well, a power rock trio. I am not a stickler for the blues going in lots of different directions, but this is not a lot of blues here.

Led by Douglas who is lead guitarist, singer and songwriter, the other two parts of the trio are Tommy Smallcomb on drums and Matt “The Dane” Gabriel on bass. Having a prior CD and EP, this new CD contains one track from last year’s EP.

The album opens with a Funk/R&B/Soul Rock tune called “A LIttle Bit.” A funky beat is maintained. “Destiny” has an acid induced sort of JAmes Gang sound to it. A heavy wall of bass and guitar sounds are thrown up, a simple beat is maintained and Douglas wails on the guitar. Interesting? Sure. But it’s more alternative punk rock than anything else. “On The Dance Floor” is up next and it does have a blues feel to it; this rocker is mid tempo paced and offers a little of the early rock blues feel. The vocals are bluesy with guitar resembling Ozzie Osborne. “Turn Around” also has a little bit of a blues edge to it, a ballad of sorts. It resembles more of a psychedelic rock ballad than blues really . “Goodbye” is up next; it definitely has a slower rock anthem feel to it. Heavy guitar, heavy vocals. “‘Hold Of Me” has a little of that earlier rock feel to it but is more an 80’s rock anthem and does not sound too new to me.

“My Time Is Precious” has a beat that feels like a copy a Prince tune but does it not flow as well. Interesting guitar. “Ain’t No Denying” offers up some guitar that is again like 80’s rock. “Out Of My Mind” offers more of the same. The tone and timber of “Fat Cat” is late 70’s rock with a nice guitar solo. We get a little more of that in “Your Face Is Stunning.” “Tragedy” has a different feel to it. It’s alternative rock in one way yet it hearkens to something I’ve heard before and can’t place. The album ends with “No More Tears To Cry” which starts out like old style delta blues in the AAB format. It’s what blues artists over 80 or 90 years ago might sound like today if they had electric guitars and amps.

The riffs are interesting. The vocals are dirty and nasal but are not exactly my cup of tea. If you want a retro rocker with some minor hits of updated blues and are looking for something very different, then this might be for you.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 8 

bennett brothers cd imageThe Bennett Brothers – Not Made For Hire

American Showplace Music

11 tracks

The Brooklyn born and raised Bennett Brothers hail from the Bay Ridge neighborhood near the Verrazano Bridge, across from my roots on the other side of the Bridge in Staten Island. Jimmy and Peter Bennett spent years playing with Levon Helm in Woodstock at his home and then on the road with him. They opened shows at “The Midnight Rambler” where guys like Hubert Sumlin, Johnnie Johnson, Little Sammie Davis, and Luther “Guitar’ Johnson were frequent headliners. They were the originators of the Alex P Suter Band and did 100 gigs prior to starting this part of their career. Along with Jimmy on guitar and vocals and Peter on bass and vocals are Lee Falco on drums and vocals and John Ginty on B3 and pianos. Jimmy Bennett wrote all 11 songs here.

“Junkyard Dog” is a nice little blues rocker that sets things off for the Brothers. A driving beat, solid rhythm guitar groove and B3 organ support the clean vocals and stinging solo guitar work. Blues rockers will take note of these guys! Second on the list is “Hold On Tight” where the tempo slows down but there is still a hard groove that keeps things centered. The vocals show some emotion and restraint but the guitar solo gets a little bit more emotional. The late electric piano solo is similar, with the song maintaining the pace and calm level throughout. “I Just Don’t Want The Blues Today” is a somber, slow blues ballad. Linda Pino backs up the band on vocals as they testify that they, “don’t want the blues today.” A very restrained and cool guitar solo is featured along with some gutsy vocals. Things build in emotion and level at the end for the outro. Things then pick up for a cut simply entitled “Blues #9.” They get a bit of a mid tempo boogie going and then the big guns on guitar and then later on B# come in to sell this instrumental. “What’d I Do” follows in a similar tempo, a nice blues rocker where they sing and ask about how they erred with their woman. A big guitar solo is featured and then returns to take things out. Up next is “Rocking Chair,” a slow starting blues rocker that then breaks out into a peppy cut with piano, slide and good vocals. Ginty gets all honky tonk and the guitar from Jimmy is dirty and distorted. I can see them dancing in Bay Ridge top this one!

“How Long” has a long intro and features the guitar as the primary voice throughout. The B3 then gets it’s turn to wail. The single verse/chorus is the only sung part, done after the intro and then partly before the close, so this is primarily an instrumental with a question asked. The guitar and organ provide the feeling. “The Only Way To Be” is another midtempo rocker where the lyrics tell us he is waiting for a commitment from his woman. Nice guitar work once again on the two solos, without being overdone. “Walk With The Devil” picks the pace up perhaps slightly in another bluesy rocker with lots of guitar for the axe fans. “Not Made For Hire” stays in the mold of the prior mid to up tempo rockers. Lots of good slide here to listen to on this title cut. The set concludes with a more up tempo cut that move along smartly right from the cut. “I Got A Woman” is the final song, telling us about the woman who, “knows what she’s got and knows how to use it.” Ginty begins a solo and then the guitar takes over and a big, massive finish goes on that takes things to the end.

I liked the CD. I felt several times that things were about to break out into a big, hot and fast number that would make a live crowd go wild. The songs tended to hold back and be more in the jam band sort of tempo. Nothing is wrong with any of them, I was just looking for more variety other than slow and mid tempo blues rockers. I can tell these guys know how to really cut loose. Add that to the mix and this would have been even better. The guitar, keys and backline are all solid and the vocals were well done, too. I just wanted a couple of more fast songs for variety because I know these guys can rock it out!

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

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 Featured Interview – Henry Oden 

Henry Oden photo 1In the critically acclaimed tome on Jimi Hendrix, ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss The Sky, by New York author David Henderson, there is a unique reference to one of the traveling bands that Rock & Roll Daddy, Little Richard hired and fired. The line goes like this: “in fact, he (Hendrix) and others in the band like Black Arthur and Henry Oden would often rebel in the midst of the insipid changes and take the music out there…”

The problem with that quote, is that while Henry Oden did record with Little Richard and Jimi Hendrix, he never went on the road with them. Henry doesn’t remember much about the session other than the personnel who participated and is able to fill in some of the blanks. The tape is rolling as Henry and I are having lunch at the Blue Wing Cafe in Upper Lake, California.

In The Life And Times Of Little Richard by UK journalist Charles White, there is an entry which reads: Unk. date (Unk. location) PERSONNEL: Little Richard (voc -1, pno, organ -4) with Jimi Hendrix (gtr -2), Black Arthur (gtr), Henry Oden (bs), unk. dms, brass, electric bottleneck gtr -3….

“On the Little Richard recording session, the unknown electric bottleneck guitarist was Hi Tide Harris. We recorded it at Sierra Sound Studios in Berkeley, California in the late ’60s, as I recall. Hi Tide Harris’s mother and my mother were friends. Hi Tide and I played in a band together with George McCullough who changed his name to George Mustapha. Our signature cover tune was Quarter To Three by Gary “U.S”. Bonds. Mustapha was the unknown drummer on the Little Richard session. He was the brother of Soul singer Jesse James. Hi Tide went on to be the voice of Leadbelly in the movie.

As a youngster, I met many Blues people not necessarily knowing who they were. My mother ran a gambling house. Coming up in Richmond, California, seems like everyone had their little side hustle to keep the bills paid. You had a square job and you had a hustle. Some of the people who came by our house were Big Mama Thornton, Lowell Fulson, and Jimmy McCracklin. T-Bone Walker came through Richmond a lot because he had people there, but I never met him.”

At one point later on, Bill Withers used to play a club in Richmond called the Tiki room. He would sing there with Johnny Heartsman. Hi Tide Harris and I would go there and stand in the doorway listening and get chased away. We’d leave for about 20 minutes and turn around and come back. I wound up taking a picture with Bill in 1990. He did a seminar at Chico State. I had been doing some recording in Chico and the guy who was engineering my sessions said, ‘Bill Withers is gonna be over at Chico State. You need to go see him.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I do need to see him.’

So I go to the seminar and sat through it. It was interesting, hearing him talk. At the end, I go up to him and say, ‘Hey, my name is Henry Oden and I play bass. I used to come by the Tiki Room when you were there workin’ with Johnny Heartsman and get chased away.’ That tickled him. Then I said, ‘We also did a recording together.’ He stopped, looked at me and said, ‘What’s your name?’ I told him and he said, ‘I don’t remember working with you.’ I said, ‘Okay, let me tell you. At the session, John Turk was on keyboards, Fred Casey was on drums, Al King was on guitar’–and he stopped me and said, ‘I didn’t know who the bass player was.’ I said, ‘I was the bass player. It was recorded at Dick Vance’s studio in Oakland.’ And he hugged me! Because you see, that track turned out to be the demo that got him his first record deal. Bill Withers actually lived in the Bay Area for awhile.

Henry Oden photo 2I was born in Oakland on February 8, 1947. I would’ve been born in Richmond, but they didn’t do C sections in Richmond. My father was from Alabama, my mother from Arkansas.

I got into music when I was about 16. The guy that lived behind me had built a guitar in wood shop. I’d hear him play all the time from my room in the back of the house. One day he invited me to a talent show at Richmond High. I went to that and I was sprung. I still remember it. His group sang I Want To Know, a song made famous by Hank Ballard & The Royals before they changed their name to The Midnighters. That stuck in my head. That was the beginning of it. There was a lot of music that went on in Richmond back in the day. There was a group called the Golden Tones, an R&B group. They had a tune out called Dorthea. One of the members was Joe Simon.

In my opinion, Richmond was a mecca of the Blues because of the influx of people from Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas. It was rough too! It was said that if you went to a jam session at Club Savoy in North Richmond and didn’t play well, you might be relieved of your instrument on your way out. Mind you, this was a rumor. Personally, I saw people booed or shouted off stage at jam sessions. They weren’t as polite as we are now.

I met my mentor, Robert Kelton through Jimmy McCracklin. He was a guitar player for “Crack” who was replaced by Lafayette “Thing” Thomas. What happened was, Kelton would come to the card games at my mother’s. He found out that I was interested in guitar. My mother urged my dad to let Kelton teach me and that’s how he became my teacher and mentor. He started me on guitar and as he listened to me develop and play he said, ‘You accompany really well. You might be better suited for electric bass, so I picked it up and practiced listening to Bobby Bland’s Here’s The Man album. I wore that album out. I played it so much the needle finally started skating across the record without finding the grooves. I learned every tune on it.

I am left handed and would’ve got a left handed bass but when my old man decided to buy my first bass he said, ‘I’ll get you an instrument but I’m not payin’ that extra 10% for a left handed one. So I learned to play right handed and I’m glad I did because as most players are right handed, I can always go to somebody’s set and play their instrument.

My father’s only music was singing at church. One of my first times playing publicly was with the King Brothers at Pilgrim’s Rest Baptist Church in Richmond. (The King Brothers are still going strong and pretty hot in LA right now.) Eventually we became the same band that Norton Buffalo, who was also from Richmond, wanted to be his band.

At Pilgrim’s Rest, we were teenagers and all we knew was the Blues. The King’s mother was looking holes through us because she knew what we were doing, but nobody said anything. As a matter of fact, when we were done, the preacher said, ‘That was very nice of those boys to play some music in church!’

Here the conversation shifts when I ask if Henry feels that Gospel music uses the same chords that Blues does.

He responds, “In contemporary Blues, the stuff you hear nowadays, no. But if you’re talking about the stuff from back in the day, yes. What you have there is the build up of the chord, the tension that it builds and the release of it. You don’t necessarily get that in a lot of the stuff that’s being played today.

Henry Oden photo 3Again, going back to that first jam session I attended at Club Savoy, school was in session. I was 17 and as it turned out, practicing with that Bobby Bland record really helped. Since I wasn’t 21 they made me sit on the Minnie Lou’s Cafe side of the establishment until they called me up to play on the Savoy side, where they served alcohol. ‘Okay,’ someone said. ‘We’re gonna let this young man up here to play.’ They’re lookin’ at me laughin’. The Moore Brothers, Dan on keyboard, Rand on drums, Dr. Wild Willie Moore on saxophone and Charles McKinney on guitar. ‘Okay, you wanna play a Blues? Okay, it’s in two flats.’ Well I don’t know what two flats is. I’d never heard it called like that. They counted it off. I thought it would be slow. They took off like nobody’s business. All the OG’s were looking at me laughin’. I got through the tune, but boy, my hand was crampin’!

They couldn’t make me stop. They played a slow one and afterwards they were like, ‘Who are you, where you live at and can we get your number?’ They also advised me to find a bass player I liked on record and study him. So I studied the bass pedal work of Jimmy Smith the B3 king, on his 20 minute opus, The Sermon. I found out that any instruction a bass player would ever need on how to play a 1-4-5 Blues is in that tune.

One of my bass students, who is at UCLA now, actually went out and got The Sermon and tried to learn every note. That’s not what I meant. I meant study the nuances, every passing chord, riff and run. How to go up and down the scale as well as circumvent it. Just stop and listen to it. Check it out fully.”

Henry’s narration is a series of flashbacks, interspersed with present day commentary. He spoke of how he left the intense Richmond Blues scene for the bright lights of San Francisco’s Broadway back in the mid ’60s.

“One day Lee King of the King Brothers and I decided to go to San Francisco to see what was going on. It just so happened we went down on Broadway and discovered Freddie & The Stone Souls rehearsing. Freddie of course, is the guitar playing brother of Sly Stone. Lee sold Freddie on me and next thing I know I’m at the house rehearsing with the band.

It’s complicated, but Sly who was a radio DJ at the time was also building another band. Johnny Heartsman disappeared for a while and the nucleus of his band went with Sly. That was Gino Landry, Fred Casey and John Turk. Meanwhile Freddie & The Stone Souls were playing at Little Bo Beep’s out in the Mission District. One night while playing there, Cynthia Robinson the trumpet player, pulled me to the side and said, ‘Don’t tell anybody but Sly is gonna make a move and you’re not gonna be part of it. This gig is only gonna last about 2 more weeks. So I had a heads up that Sly and Freddie were merging their bands and bringing Larry Graham in on bass. So I was out.

I continued playing on Broadway though, workin’ with Bobby “Spider” Webb at the Condor where Carol Doda was makin’ topless dancing famous. I went on the road for awhile, didn’t like it, came back and took the next 10 years off to work with Lady Bianca.

When I did come back in 1982, I went to Mark Naftalin’s Blue Monday Party and met John Lee Hooker for the first time. He liked the way I played and asked me where I was from. When I said Richmond he said, ‘It’s some tough emm effs in Richmond. I’ll never play out there no more.’

Same thing when I met Lowell Fulson. When he asked whom I’d played with in Richmond and I told him, he said, ‘Well, I’m not worried about you, you can play!’

I next started playing with Little Joe Blue in Richmond. I first saw him at the Silver Shelter, next to the National Guard Armory. He was doing his hit Dirty Work Is Going On. He had a show-stopping way of shaking his wavy, processed hair forward and flipping it back, making the waves go back in place.

When I met Clifton Chenier, he said, ‘Oh, you play with Little Joe Blue? You’re from Richmond? Don’t have to worry about you. You can play. So these are just Richmond music scene stories.

Henry Oden photo 4I joined Mark Naftalin’s band in 1982 but Tom Mazzolini was putting together a European tour which he called The San Francisco Blues Festival Tour. He offered me a spot on it. Other players were Sonny Rhodes, Harvey Guitar Mac Macknally, Little Joe Blue and Roy Rogers. I liked working with Mark but couldn’t turn down the opportunity to go to Europe. I ran toward it like a turkey through corn. I have pictures that we took in the Netherlands. Mark didn’t speak to me for 2 years.”

When I ask Henry how often he is working these days, the answer is surprising. “Not often enough. Maybe 2 or 3 times a month. I’m still getting over a bout with cancer. Some of my best times recently were with guitarist Preston Shannon, who passed from cancer in January of this year.

When I found out he was ill, I gave him a call. I said, ‘Man, I hear you have cancer.’ He said, ‘Yeah man.’ I said , ‘Well, welcome to the club. I had mine before you had yours,’ and we laughed about it. He passed in January of this year. He was a great person, guitar player and singer. Those who didn’t get a chance to hear him play, you missed it. You really missed it.”

Speaking on his on cancer experience, Henry says, “Eating is sort of a slow thing for me now. ” (He points to his jawline to indicate where it was.) “I still have a dimple here. It took almost a year and a half to learn how to swallow again. I could drink water but not solid food. You know the expression, ‘I’ll slap the taste out of your mouth?’ I know that one. I lost 90 pounds. You should’ve see the clothes I gave away. When I introduce myself I say, ‘I’m Henry Oden–At least what’s left of him.’

We close discussing Henry Odom’s opinion of the current state of the Blues. “The Blues is in trouble. I look around and what people are considering the Blues now is not it. Like I say, I go back to those jam sessions I started in. Some of those players that are out there now wouldn’t have made it through back then. These days Blues Rock is in but Southern Soul, not necessarily so. Personally, the Blues that I dig is post WWII Blues up to the beginning of the Motown Era. My thing is West Coast Blues. Chicago Blues? Okay, but I’m really West Coat. If you look at it, you have to talk about the migrations of African Americans from the Jim Crow South. One migration went to Chicago, one to the West Coast and one to the East Coast. There were variations in the education levels of the migrants. Those that came out west, generally had a 6th or 7th grade education. Most of the migrants during WWII did so to get the jobs that were created by the war.

If you analyze the song Sweet Home Chicago, it is saying that if you could read and write, you could get a job. I’m trying to find out what was the first reference to going to Chicago, because if you listen to the Robert Johnson version, it says ‘Come on, don’tcha wanna go to the land of California, Sweet Home Chicago. And if you read, you discover that Robert Johnson may have had relatives in Port Chicago, California. If you really do the anthropology on the song, he’s talkin’ abut takin’ the Lincoln Highway which goes from Chicago to California. I received much of this information from a Blues enthusiast in the Netherlands. Europe knows more about our Blues than we do.

As Blues Blast goes to press Henry was notified that he is Mr. October in the Living Blues Greats 2019 Blues Calendar. It can be found at this link:

Visit Henry Oden’s website at:

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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The Sacramento Blues Society – Sacramento, CA

The Sacramento Blues Society Annual Membership Party, featuring the amazing SUGARAY RAYFORD, will be held on Saturday, December 1st at Harlow’s Nightclub & Restaurant, 2708 J Street, Sacramento. Doors open at 1:00 pm, show from 2:00 – 5:00 pm. Free for active SBS members (bring your membership card) and $25 for non-members (but this $25 also buys you a one year membership into one of the oldest Blues Societies in the Country – the Sacramento Blues Society!

This will be the SBS party of the year and a show you won’t want to miss! For ticket purchasing information: and for Sacramento Blues Society

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.

Nov 12 – The Bruce Katz Band, Nov 14 – Juke House, Nov 19 – Southside Jonny Clausing & Last Call, Nov 26 – The MojoCats, Nov 28 – Brother Jefferson Trio, Dec 3 – David Lumsden & Friends, Dec 10 – Mary Jo Curry, Dec 12 – Joe Asselin & the Moonlight Ramblers, Dec 17 – Studebaker John, Dec 26 – The Baaad Boyz 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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