Issue 12-45 November 15 2018

Cover photo © 2018 Richard Pechner

 In This Issue 

Tee Watts has our feature interview with Rich Kirch. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including a book from Bruce Iglauer & Patrick A. Roberts about Alligator Records plus new music from Peter V Blues Train, Niecie, Bruce Katz Band, Lino Muoio, Billy F Gibbons, Michele D’Amour And The Love Dealers and Midnite Johnny.

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

 From The Editor’s Desk 

Hey Blues Fans,

Our friends at the Reading Blues Fest are having a great event this weekend in Reading, Pennsylvania. This 3 day festival features 5 venue locations with great acts like Booker T. Jones, Ruthie Foster, Craig Thatcher Band w/ special guest G.E. Smith, The Bluesmasters, Hogan Heroes Blues Band and Dave Hinkel & Nick Peetros on Friday night.

On Saturday they have Benjamin Vo Blues Band, Dave Hinkel & Nick Peetros, Blind Boy Paxton, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Billy Branch, Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials, Alexis P Suter & The Ministers Of Sound, Angie & The Honeybeez, Dave Mells Blues Band, Tommy Castro & The Painkillers, Tinsley Ellis, Hogan Heroes Blues Band and Vanessa Collier.

Then on Sunday they feature Josh Taylor’s Next Gen Blues, Shemekia Copeland, John Nemeth & The Blue Dreamers With The Berks Horns, Clarence Spady & Nick Colionne, Vanessa Collier, the Blues Divas: Angie Ezell, Maria Damore, Sue Lange w/ Lamont Bates, Roger Harris, David Williams.

For tickets and complete festival information visit or click on their ad below in this issue.

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

peter v blues train cd imagePeter V Blues Train – Shaken But Not Deterred


13 tracks/58:17

Getting off to a rousing start with “Don’t Wanna Leave Memphis,” the Peter V Blues Train offers more of the formula that has worked well on their previous three recordings. Leader Peter Veteska’s tenor voice rings out loud and clear, matching his gutsy guitar work as he imparts yet another song celebrating highlights of the Memphis experience. Alex D’Agnese on drums and Sean “Gravey” Graverson on bass contribute a sturdy shuffle rhythm while guests Jeff Levine on the Hammond B3 and Danny Walsh on saxophones elevate the proceedings with bold statements. They follow that with a heavier-than-usual version of the Fats Domino classic, “Blue Monday,” complete with fine solos from Levine and Veteska. Walsh takes the lead on a cover of “T-Bone Shuffle,” dishing out a soaring solo excursion as the band grinds along.

The keyboard talents of band member Aron Gornish are featured the high-powered “By the River,” with lyrics by Joanne Cesario, who co-wrote five other tunes. “In Demand” sports a horn-driven strut with an insistent guitar riff as the leader seeks approval from the one woman that caught his eye. Coo Moe Jhee takes over on bass. A sassy duet with Vanessa Vance on “Getting Closer Now” is one memorable moment, with some well-placed harp blowing from Gary Neuwirth adding extra flavoring. The band rips through “Don’t Cheat On My Lady,” with Veteska vigorously professing his continuing faithfulness in the midst of temptation, signing off with a rapid-fire solo. His vocal talents are revealed on the smoky ballad, “For All We Know,” with Levine on the Hammond organ once again creating the desired mood, helped out by Gary Mazzaropi on stand-up bass.

Some of the leader’s hard-scrabble Brooklyn youth comes through on the anthem-like “Alibi,” while the title track finds him steadfast in his determination to not back down or give up. When he delivers another blistering guitar break, there is no doubt about his sincerity. “Ben So Long” features different backing musicians, adding Bob DelRosso on guitar, Bill Cherensky on bass, and Paul Levinsky on drums without losing any coherence in the overall sound . A “bonus” track finishes off the disc with a live, acoustic version of Big Maceo’s classic tune, “Worried Life Blues”. Walsh’s sax dances around Veteska’s plaintive vocal, creating a expressive musical dialogue.

There is plenty to enjoy on this well-crafted disc. The songs and arrangements hold up over repeated listens. The solos are compact statements, bucking the trend of overblown shredding ad nauseum. The one area where the disc falls a bit short of the mark is in the lyrical content, which often seems to be a string of phrases that do little to tell a story or create an emotional reaction. That aside, the Peter V Blues Train has another disc to be proud of, one that definitely will appeal to those listeners who lean to the rock side of the blues continuum.

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 – 2 of 8 

niecei cd imabeNiecie – Trouble With A Capital T

Ride The Tiger Records

11 Tracks/45:47

Based in Nashville, singer Niecie is back with her fifth release, once again featuring Johnny Neel (Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule) on keyboards as well as filling the role of producer on the project. Niecie collaborated with Neel on writing three songs, with help from guitarist Doug Jones, who appears on one track. Neel and Jones were involved in fashioning three other songs, including two with another notable songwriter, EG Kight. The end result is an exciting playlist that offers plenty of variety and musical delights.

The opener, “Thank God For Fools,” is a hard-driving rocker set up by Chris Anderson’s biting guitar work. Then Niecie jumps into a funky dance workout, “Memphis Stomp,” her voice urged on by horn riffs from Richard Griffin on saxophone and Joe Gross on trumpet, plus Melissa Alesi on backing vocals. A second tune that Niecie wrote with Kim Morrison, “Two Can Play That Game,” delivers a clear message to an unfaithful lover, propelled by Dennis Gulley on bass and an unidentified drummer. The horns return on “Sweat,” as Niecie gets lowdown and sassy. Shaun Murphy’s presence on backing vocals adds an extra dimension to the track, as does Griffin’s wailing solo. The title track gives the singer another opportunity to make it clear that she is no one to be trifled with. The popping bass line is courtesy of Randy Coleman, who plays on five other cuts, and Joe Conley lays down a distinctive guitar part. “Lighter Shade Of Blue” is less memorable as Niecie never quite finds her vocal comfort zone.

Standout tracks include “Baby It’s Working,” a vibrant rocker that sounds like it was pulled from the Rolling Stones catalog, with Lori Beth Hogan on backing vocals, and “Just This Side Of Memphis,” a traveling song with Niecie’s voice dishing out the witty lyrics with a bit of country twang and soulful grit. The twin guitars of Jones and Johnny Duke play off of Neel’s layered keyboard efforts while Randy Russell and Jesse Meeks handle the backing vocals. Neel’s piano playing on “Two Sides To Every Story” echoes the heartache in Niece’s tormented tale of betrayal. He doubles on on piano and organ on “Waiting For The Next Shoe To Drop,” undoubtedly the highlight of the disc. His organ chords simmer in the background as Niecie takes her time with an intimate, nuanced vocal that burns with understated, searing intensity.

It is getting harder and harder to find recordings that manage to combine strong vocals and fine musicianship on a batch of songs that deserve to be heard more than once. Well, look no more. Niecie and her musical cohorts, under Johnny Neel’s outstanding leadership, have put together a disc that checks all of those boxes. So pick up a copy and give Niecie a chance to sooth your worried mind…..

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 

bruce kazt cd imageBruce Katz Band – Get Your Groove!

American Showplace Music

11 tracks

Bruce Katz delivers a new CD for us to savor entitled Get Your Groove!, taking Katz’ blues and “soul-jazz” influences and adding Allman Brothers/Greg Allman/Butch Trucks/Jaimoe jam band influences. The band is Chris Vitarello on guitar, Ray Hangen doing most of the drum work and also with Jaimoe on tracks 2, 4 and 7, Matt Raymond on acoustic and electric bass along with Katz doing some bass on the B3 and Katz on Hammond B3 and acoustic piano. Vitarello also does the vocal work on top of his fantastic guitar playing.

The album starts with “Hesitation Blues,” a traditional blues that Katz and Vitarello make sound new in a jazzy sort of way. Katz organ is spectacular as is Vitarello’s strident guitar. “Freight Train” is a ten-minute jam band instrumental that Katz wrote for Butch Trucks Freight Train Band and features Jaimoe on the drums. The organ work has throwbacks to the great Allman Jams that Katz spices up and delivers in his own way. The guitar work is also Allman-esque with the jazz influences riffs that build and build layers of sound. Katz moves over to the piano on “Beef Jerky,” another original cut. The cut interplays jazz and blues elements and the guitar and piano intertwine for some interesting stuff. Another superb instrumental! “Shine Together (Tribe Of Lights) was written by Katz, other band members and a few others and it’s a cool little jazzy cut with guitar, organ and Jaimoe solos to drink up.

“River Blues” is up next. Katz wrote this one and it’s a pretty, slow jazzy blues instrumental. He mixes his piano and organ for us and Vitarello’s guitar also weaves in seamlessly with the acoustic bass adding support. Well done! Katz and Vitarello penned “Make Things Right” and share the spotlight on vocals, guitar and B3. It’s thoughtful and pensive, commenting on the state of things today and asking everyone to come together and do what the title says. The title track is next; a boogie woogie honky tonk piano starts things off and the guitar plays into the mix along with the backline. Katz wrote this sweet instrumental and he and the band deliver the good performing it and Jaimoe appears for the third and final time for us to enjoy. Next is “Zone 3,” another Katz tune that is a slow and sultry instrumental with guitar and organ trading off the lead nicely.

“Rush Hour” follows, another Katz instrumental with a little more pep and a little more jazzy and funky set of overtones. Modernistic and cool, we get a lot of organ and then the guitar comes in big halfway through for an intense solo. Another jam band sort of thing to savor with some cool drum work up front, too. Vitarello and Katz wrote “Wasn’t My Time,” a deep and intense slow blues. Vitarello sings of a drive by shooting missing him and letting him live on, it just wasn’t his time. Katz gets it going and Vitarello sings and then gives us another nice solo, this one quite long and very cool. Katz comes in with more B3 and we get about 8 minutes total of jam band goodness built on this slow and sweet blues. The finale to the set is Vitarello’s “The Run.” His guitar gets us going, then Katz solos on the B3 and Vitarello returns for another solo on this slick mid tempo instrumental.

The CD blends Katz’ New Orleans roots with his jam band touring and jazzy blues work of Chris Vitarello. Vitarello is a regular with Bruce and also tours with Chris O’Leary and other bands and his work here is spectacular. Katz on B3 has few, if any, equals. This is a great CD that showcases the organ, guitar and just the craftsmanship of a great group of musicians. I highly recommend it!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 8 

lino muoio cd imageLino Muoio – Mandolin Blues – Acoustic Party

Man Blues Publishing (Self Released)

15 tracks

Lino Muoio has appeared on several dozen CDs and began his recording career under his own name in 2008 with the album Blues on me. He released prior mandolin CDs in 2012 and 2016 and here he has an all acoustic release with an assortment of other Italian musicians who specialize in acoustic music. A self-taught guitar player at age 16, since 1999 Muoio has performed over 1,000 gigs with the Italian blues band Blue Stuff.

Blues mandolin grew out of the black string bands that played ragtime and blues. Memphis, Tennessee was the hub for these bands where they began to merge with the jug bands. Classic songs like “Sittin’ On Top Of The World” emerged from this and even Muddy Waters was a member of a string band with mandolin; The Son SImms Four featured Muddy on guitar and Louis Ford on mandolin. The mandolin migrated north to the industrial cities and became a staple on Maxwell Street in Chicago. From there it moved around the US and even to Europe. It survives in our blues genre with noted players like Rich DelGrosso (a huge influence for Lino) and Billy Flynn carrying the torch. Muoio is a staunch supporter and his mandolin blues are outstanding.

The CD starts with “Let’s Ease Our Mind” with Muoio on mandolin, Veronica Sbergia on vocals, Mario Donatone on vocals and piano, and Max De Bernardi on drums. Veronica and Mario trade off vocals and sing a duet as the piano strides along and Muoio wails on his mandolin. “My Better Days” is Muoio on mandolin witn DeBernardi on dobro and vocals. The two finger pick nicely and there are some cool vocal harmonies. Next up is the rollicking “Roosevelt Stomp,” featuring the same duo as the prior cut. A song about being a lonely stranger who moves from town to town, the theme is authentic and the sound is sweet. Stefano Tavernese takes up the dobro and vocals with Muoio on “Wise Enough.” A thoughtful and slow paced cut, the duo trade licks and solos and make some beautiful music together.

“Do It Right” features Paolo Bonfanti on guitar and vocal and Francesco “Sleepy” Miele on upright bass with Muoio. Paolo’s vocals have a gritty earthiness that is cool and the interplay of guitar and mandolin is well done. The bass subtly solidifies the sound. Up next is “N.C.L.M.” which stands for “Naked Cherry Lobster Moan.” It reprises the players from the prior cut and it’s a slick little short instrumental that bounces nicely and gets the foot tapping. “Sad Today” Is a down tempo and darker cut about a cheating woman. Max Prandi takes up the guitar and vocals here while Tavernese is on dobro and Roberto Ferrante is on percussion with Muoio. The strings blend well here and there are some interesting wave noises that take us out with the vocals. Francesco Piu is on guitar and vocals for “Peace Of Mind.” Giovanni “Nanni” Gaias is the percussionist and Miele returns on bass to support Muoio.The finger picking on the mandolin here is layered over the guitar and makes for some cool sounds with the other two players.

“I Can’t Stand” features Lucio Villani on upright bass and vocals, Marco Pandolfi on harp and Muoio on mandolin. It’s a bouncy cut with the bass driving things and the harp and mandolin add punctuation and solos. Villani’s vocals are upbeat and Muoio continues to excel on his instrument. Tavernese returns next on guitar and vocals for “Footpath To Town.” Strident guitar and vocals with good interplay with dobro (Adriano Viterbini) and Muoio. Armando Serafini adds a nice layer of percussion that helps drive this one along. It’s has a whirlwind of a sound with hand claps making for a neat effect. Tavernese ir primary on vocals and Barbara Eramo shares in the vocals mix with a moaning sort of ehterial sound that makes for a good effect late in the piece. Tavernese plays guitar along with Viterbini on dobro, Serafini on percussion and Muoio on mandolin on “Shelter.” It’s a cool song that flows sweetly. Edoardo Petretti starts things off on piano a little discordantly and the banjo and mandolin pluck a bit to get “Good Times Comin'” off the ground. Then things begin to roll as Matan Rochlitz sings along with his banjo playing. Muoio flutters in and out on his mandolin and Marco Zenini plays a bit part of his upright bass.

“It’s Up To Me” brings Sbergia and DeBernardi in to front the band as he plays guitar, Donatone plays piano, Villani slaps the bass and Muoio hits the mandolin. It’s got a slick honky-tonk sound that I enjoyed. Gina Fabiano joins Sbergia on vocals while Muoio plays is mandolin and Donatone tickles the keys on his piano. The vocals take a smoky and very earthy tone on this nice little slow blues. The album concludes with another sweet cut entitled “She’s So Spicy,” as sexy and sultry blues with a piano boogie and mandolin and guitar intertwined. Sbergia and Fabiani take the vocals, De Bernardi is slick on the guitar, Muoiu excels again on mandolin, Donatone sparkles on the piano and Villani holds up the bottom end well on his bass.

This is a great CD and I loved it from start to finish. The only thing that I’m wondering about is the cool sperm whale and deep sea diver art on the CD cover and foldouts. The cover features Muoio pouring coffee from an espresso pot down a sperm whale’s mouth, a very different sort of cover. I can see this CD on the acoustic awards lists for the next rounds of music awards. The mandolin, dobro and guitar work is exceptional and hearkens to the string band era where this music came from and adds a little Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influence to boot. Muoio does an outstanding job as do the accompanying musicians. If you like mandolin blues, then this one’s for you- it is super stuff!

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 

bruce iglauer book imageBruce Iglauer & Patrick A. Roberts – Bitten By The Blues: The Alligator Records Story

University of Chicago Press

336 pages

Alligator Records may well be the premier blues record label on the planet. A quick review of the label’s releases over the past forty-seven plus years turns up one legendary artist after another, and some of the leading lights of the current blues scene. At the center of the label stands Bruce Iglauer, founder and owner, who now gives blues fans a deep, compelling look into how he built the label from a very humble start.

In the book’s forward, Iglauer is clear about his motivation for the Alligator label. “Most of Alligator’s records move your feet or your body, but we also try to make records that move that other part: your soul. It’s music that can cleanse your inner pain by pulling that pain right out of you….the mission of Alligator, was to carry Chicago’s South and West Side blues to a worldwide audience of young adults like me. Now it has become a mission to find and record musicians who will bring the essence of blues – its catharsis, its sense of tradition, its raw emotional power, and its healing feeling – to a new audience”.

As a college study in Wisconsin, Iglauer visited Chicago, primarily to visit the Jazz Record Mart and to find a blues band to book for his school’s homecoming dance. Once there, he fell under the spell of Bob Koester, legendary owner of the store and the Delmark Record label. Koester assigned one of his employees to take Iglauer around to some of the clubs on the south and west sides of Chicago. At a small joint owned by the late Eddie Shaw, Iglauer saw guitarists Otis Rush, Jimmy Dawkins, and Hound Dog Taylor, who made an indelible impression.

Finishing school, Iglauer made a permanent move to Chicago, where he started working full-time hours as the Delmark shipping clerk for part-time pay. He spent his nights in the blues clubs throughout the city. Iglauer would frequently catch Taylor and his band, watching them fill the dance floor night after night. It was a raw sound form a self-taught musician, as the author notes,”He couldn’t read music and probably could not have told you the name of the notes the strings of his guitar were tuned to, and, as he tuned by ear, they might be different on different nights”. Once he established that Koester had no interest in recording Taylor, Iglauer put his plan together to record the band with Brewer Phillips on guitar and Ted Harvey on drums. Those sessions became Hound Dog Taylor And The House Rockers, the 1971 release that announced the start of a new blues record label.

Along with co-author Patrick A. Roberts, Iglauer weaves a fascinating narrative that delves into three separate aspects of the Alligator story. An obvious focus is the owner’s recollections of all of the artists that found a home on the label, many becoming close personal friends. From legends like Albert Collins, Koko Taylor, James Cotton, Luther Allison, and William Clarke, to guitar heroes like Johnny Winter, Roy Buchanan, and Lonnie Mack, as well as bringing Louisiana artists like Professor Longhair, Dr. John, Katie Webster, and zydeco king Clifton Chenier to a wider audience, Iglauer’s stories provide meaningful depth to our understanding and appreciation for these artists. There are also moments of sadness, with the passing of friends or tragic accidents, like the 1978 train derailment in Norway that nearly killed Iglauer and the entire Son Seals Band, in the mist of a European tour.

A second aspect of the book chronicles Iglauer’s growth as a human being, and as a label owner. He offers fair assessments of his shortcomings as well as some of his best ideas. The label hit the jackpot with the double disc Twentieth Anniversary Collection, which sold ten times the number of a regular solo artist release, and the Grammy winning Showdown, which combined the talents of Collins, Robert Cray, and Johnny Copeland. Early on, he learns several valuable lessons regarding the role of producer on recording projects, including the need to say no when required. At one point, Iglauer became a reggae fan, and released a number of fine recordings in that genre that failed to connect in the marketplace. Realizing his dream to work with another legend, Johnny Otis, Iglauer quickly learns what happens when you craft an album with too much blues for the R&B crowd, and not enough blues for that audience. He even readily admits to turning down a one-shot offer to record Stevie Ray Vaughan early in his career.

Perhaps a crucial part of the narrative concerns the description of the actual business of running a label. Over time, Alligator grew to be more than just a record company, offering artist management, bookkeeping, and tour booking services for the musicians on the label. Iglauer sheds a light on some areas of the business that the average fan may not understand. He enlightens readers on the practice of licensing recordings from other labels for release in a new market. His explanation of the record distribution system is telling, both in the way it progressed from the owner delivering boxes of albums from the trunk of his car, to major distribution companies that allow music to reach a wider market, but can be disastrous for a label like Alligator if the distributor fails, leaving tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid invoices. There is also reflections on the challenges of selling albums versus compact discs, and the on-going struggle to figure out on to make money for the artists and the label as streaming services continue to have a severe negative impact on music sales.

It is a story well-told, one that will resonate with every blues fan. In fact, anyone who loves American roots music should pour through this book. Readers will undoubtedly gain new insights into some of their favorite musicians and classic recordings, in addition to getting a firm grasp on the magnitude of achievements that Iglauer has accomplished through the Alligator label. This one is most highly recommended!

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 – 6 of 8 

billy gibbins cd imageBilly F Gibbons – The Big Bad Blues

Concord Records CRE00747

11 songs – 41 minutes

Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer Billy Gibbons completes the musical journey he started three years ago with the Afro-Cuban-flavored Perfectamundo album with this release, something that’s a treat sure to please both blues traditionalists and the millions of fans he’s acquired through his five-decade career as ZZ Top’s vocalist and guitarist.

Born in Houston in 1949, Gibbons is the son of an orchestra conductor and concert pianist, and he studied percussion under Tito Puente in New York. He picked up the guitar at 13, and was influenced by Jimmy Reed and others. He polished his guitar chops while attending Warner Brothers’ art school in Hollywood, Calif., in a succession of bands that included The Saints, Billy G & The Flames and The Coachmen, but started making a name for himself after founding the psychedelic group, The Moving Sidewalks, when he returned to Texas.

That group released several singles and one LP, Flash, but is best known for being the opening act for The Jimi Hendrix Experience during Hendrix’s first U.S. tour as a headliner. Gibbons formed ZZ Top in 1969, and, despite being one of the most successful bands in the rock world, has always infused his performance with a big dose of Texas-style blues.

“Nobody gets away from the infectious allure of those straight-ahead licks,” he says. “The inventiveness of that high-and-lonesome sound remains solid and stridently strong to this day.”

Other than a compilation album in 2016, ZZ Top has toured but hasn’t released a new CD in six years. But Gibbons has remained busy with other projects, including a tribute album to guitar pioneer Les Paul that included Keith Richards, Steve Miller, Jose Feliciano and Slash in its lineup. While his most recent previous release hinted at blues in the Afro-Cuban mix, this one’s deeply rooted in the blues tradition.

Billy’s backed here by Mike “The Drifter” Flanigin on piano instead of his normal Hammond B3 organ, Austin Hanks on second guitar and a rhythm section of Joe Hardy on bass and Greg Morrow and Matt Sorum on drums. Gibbons also contributes harmonica along with James Harman, who makes a special guest appearance, and the music ranges from full-tilt boogie and straight blues to New Orleans funk.

“Missin’ Yo’ Kissin’,” penned by Gibbons’ actress wife, Gilligan, opens the action. It’s a driving, percussion-heavy pleaser based on the separation from a loved one that any touring musician or actor has to endure. The loping answer song, “My Baby She Rocks,” features stellar solos from Harman and plenty of guitar lines that prove to any doubters that Billy’s a bluesman at heart.

The shuffle “Second Line” has a Big Easy feel as it tips the hat to a New Orleans tradition before Gibbons delivers a faithful, slow-blues treatment of Muddy Waters’ “Standing Around Crying.” The original “Let The Left Hand Know…” follows. It’s an unhurried four-four harp-and-guitar shuffle, and the next line is: “where the right hand goes.”

“Bring It To Jerome,” made famous by Bo Diddley, gets a slower, funkier treatment than the cacophonous rocker original. “That’s What She Said” delivers some of the music folks know Gibbons for, albeit at a gentler pace, a theme that continues with “Mo’ Slower Blues,” before Billy delivers some tasty slide guitar as he professes his love for a lady in “Hollywood 151.” Two more covers – an uptempo take on Waters’ “Rollin’ And Tumblin’” and Diddley’s “Crackin’ Up,” delivered with its original calypso feel – bring the set to a close.

If you love the blues – or ZZ Top, for that matter – you’ll love this one. I sure did.

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.

 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8 

Michele D’Amour cd imageMichele D’Amour And The Love Dealers – Wiggle Room

Blueskitty Records

10 songs – 39 minutes

Seattle-based singer-songwriter Michele D’Amour assembled a new band and takes a dramatically different approach to her music with this release, a collection of 10 originals that primarily deliver stylish, jazz-rooted blues with the classic feel of the ‘50s and ‘60s along with a little swing, boogie, Latin and gospel.

That’s quite a leap of faith for the former child prodigy keyboard player because her most recent previous CD, Lost Nights At The Leopard Lounge, delivered straight-ahead blues, earned multiple awards nominations from the Washington Blues Society and one of its tunes, “Trouble,” took home grand prize in the jazz category at the 2017 international John Lennon Songwriting Competition.

A published poet who grew up singing in the church, Michele possesses is alto with a rich, warm voice. Although somewhat limited in range, she’s a solid stylist who consistently drives her music forward with a delivery that’s slightly behind the beat.

Recorded at Strange Earth Studios and Love Studios in Seattle with Grammy-winning engineer Steve Feasley at the controls, Wiggle Room was produced by Washington Blues Society Hall Of Fame guitarist Mark Riley. It features Jeff Cornell on guitars, Brian Olendorf on keys and Noel Barnes on tenor and alto sax backed by Patrick McDanel on bass and trombone and Dave Delzotto on drums. They’re augmented by special guests Angelo Ortiz (congas), Greg Lyons (trumpet) and Nora Michaels and John Oliver III (backing vocals).

The opener, “Falling Down,” is a funky number that deals with repeated, failed attempts at getting one’s life together. It features a mid-tune solo with Cornell and Barnes trading riffs. “Sweet Lovin’ Man” is a horn-driven stop-time blues, while the title song, “Wiggle Room” is a smoky, slow-paced jazz lounge ballad on which D’Amour shines atop beautiful horn runs from Lyons and Barnes.

The pace quickens for the funky “Honey On The Side,” which cautions a man with two lovers that he’d better beware when he reaches into the hive. If the queen catches him, he probably won’t survive. The jazz-flavored “Nothing To No One” is a small-combo jazz number that describes a homeless man standing on the corner holding a sign as people ignore him and pass by, while “Let It Slide” is a Latin-flavored funk that hints of War and Carlos Santana as it cautions not to sweat the small stuff that life presents.

The sound takes on a boogie beat for “Been So Long” with D’Amour singing from the standpoint of a woman scorned. The theme continues in “Worthy,” a modern torch song in which the singer’s been dumped and changed her appearance, but the man still doesn’t care. Olendorf gets to stretch out on the 88s for the rollicking “He Can’t Be Wrong” before the gospel-flavored “Hard Times” deals with current world events to bring the action to a close.

Available from Amazon, iTunes, CDBaby, Spotify and direct from the artist’s website (address above), Wiggle Room is chock full of solid originals. It will appeal to you if you prefer your blues classy and with frequent jazz overtones.

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.

 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 8 

midnite johnny cd imageMidnite Johnny – Long Road Home

Mosher Street Records

South Florida’s Midnite Johnny Morana now relocated in the UK delivers solid blues-rock along with the occasional rockin’ blues via his nicely husky vocals and strong guitar skills. He is more than ably abetted here by keyboards, drums, bass, sax, synth brass and a backing vocalist. Thirteen of the fifteen songs are band compositions. The music and lyrics nicely mosey along and you suddenly realize that this is good stuff. All the parts fit just right and these guys definitely have the right tools for the job.

Johnny gets off on the right foot with the rockin’ blues of “Your New Occupation” that chugs along bolstered by his energetic guitar licks and the gusto of his vocals as he bemoans his loose girlfriend. Next up is a slow blues-rocker in “Slow Burn Inside”. Cool backing vocals by Arlene Coutee compliment the fluid guitar and Johnny’s sure fire vocal delivery. J.J. Cale’s “Crazy Mama” is delivered a bit faster tempo than the original and is enhanced by slide guitar and Steve Zoyes on piano.

The title track borrows a bit of it’s riff from “Rollin’ And Tumbling”, but it fits the song’s slide driven groove. “Lookin’ Good” is a jauntily syncopated instrumental with a groove that won’t quit. You want a shuffle, we give you a nifty one in “Tired Of Foolin Around” featuring organ, piano and more tasty slide guitar work. Johnny’s smooth vocal moves “All The Blues” along quite nicely thank you and Stan Waldman’s energetic sax doesn’t hurt a bit.

“Motels, Whiskey & Me” is a slow and mellow blues ballad. Harvey Mandel’s jazz tinged instrumental “Baby Batter” includes electric piano and guitar that increasingly builds in intensity. The classic “Key To The Highway” is given an acoustic workout with Johnny contributing separate rhythm and lead parts. He does justice to the original with his version. “Outta Time” is a mellow and smooth delight. “That’s All You Gonna Get” serves up another mellow groove one. An “acoustic” version of the title track takes us to the end of this truly satisfying recording. Mournful electric and acoustic slide, piano and “strings” close out things on a melancholy note.

Call this music what you will. I call it great. Not one misstep within. First rate singing, playing, lyrics and production…What’s not to like? Do yourself a favor and scoop this tasty morsel up.

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

 Featured Interview – Rich Kirch 

rich Kirch photo 1It doesn’t exactly state it on his resume, but guitarist Rich Kirch is a trouper. Fresh from a slice or two from the surgeon’s scalpel, Rich is a little miffed that it seems like it’s going to take a lot longer than the week or so the surgeon prophesied it would take to get back into playing shape. He’s recovering from gall bladder surgery.

“Well, I’m better than I was a few days ago. I had to get my gall bladder out, you know. They told me they would poke a couple of holes in me and pull it out of my belly. But they cut open my chest and went in that way. That’s what hurts. A 3 inch incision. The worst part of the process is just worryin’ about having it done, ya know? I’ll be okay, I just have to heal up. I just tried to do a little playin’ and puttin’ a pillow in between my body and my guitar helps. Bein’ able to play takes your mind off of everything.

This past May, after the recent death of one of my best friends and terrific Blues bass player Frank Bandy, I went back to Chicago. Frank’s wife Lisa, gifted me with Frank’s Fender Precision bass and many of his Blues records. I almost didn’t make the trip as I had my first gall bladder attack at SFO leaving for Chicago. At the airport, I got this sudden pain in my side. It went away for a couple of months, but started botherin’ me again, so I had it checked out and was told my gall bladder needed to come out.

I think of when we were young and how we used to run all over the country when I was playin’ with Chicago Bluesman Jimmy Dawkins. He was the first guy I really started travelin’ with back in the ’70s. When I came around the Blues scene, I was about 18 years old. The Blues musicians I was hangin’ around were 20, 30 and 40 years older than me. They were drinkin’ Wild Turkey, Old Crow and Jim Beam. I would try to keep up with them thinkin’, I had plenty of time, since they were a lot older than me.

I did the whole thing. You kinda come to that fork in the road where one sign says continue livin’ and the other one says die soon.”

Rich Kirch was born in Chicago in 1955. A studied journeyman guitarist, aside from touring and recording with the aforementioned Dawkins, Kirch spent the last 13 years of John Lee Hooker’s life as a member of John Lee’s Coast To Coast Blues Band. He has also recorded albums under his own name including Rich Kirch Augusta Boulevard featuring John Lee Hooker, Big Walter Horton, Sam Lay, Charlie Musselwhite, Freddie Roulette and Pete Sears, produced by John Paul Dejoria.

He has graced the performance stage with the likes of Jimmy Rogers and Charlie Musselwhite and toured extensively, including at 7 treks to Europe. Not to mention the U.S., Canada and Brazil. Solid.

Here he recounts his story.

rich Kirch photo 2“As a child, I was into baseball. If music hadn’t found me, I would have pursued it further. I was inspired to get into music the first time I saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan show. I was lookin’ through the window and thought the guitars were a pretty cool thing. Later, as I got into buying records, I kept seeing the name Willie Dixon on them. I didn’t know anything about the Blues but the records I liked had Willie Dixon’s name.

Later still, these guys I knew who were more familiar with the Blues, let me come over. We’d be sittin’ around drinkin’ Boone’s Farm and listenin’ to the radio. I heard the DJ say the name John Lee Hooker. I thought I never heard of this guy before. Then the DJ played Serves You Right To Suffer. Little did I know about what the future would bring.

I remember hitchikin’ to the record store and askin’ the the clerk, ‘Do you have any records by this guy, John Lee Hooker?’. He sent me over to the Blues section. I didn’t know anything about the Blues section. Prior to that, I’d get my Rolling Stones records, the early British stuff; Savoy Brown, Fleetwood Mac and, like I said, had seen Willie Dixon’s name on some of their stuff. I had no clue at the time that a lot of those Blues guys were still alive and in Chicago. More and more I was discoverin’ info. The first 2 Blues records I bought were by James Cotton; Cotton In Your Ear and The James Cotton Blues Band.

I remember back then the 7-Eleven’s and the White Hen Pantry’s used to sell racks of cut out records that you could buy for less than a dollar. I bought a lot of my Blues records at those places.

My dad bought my sister a Sears Silvertone guitar when I was about 10 years old. The first time I picked it up, I was able to pick out the melody to Louie Louie. I thought that was pretty cool and took my first guitar lesson shortly after that . My first teacher was a great player but a horrible teacher. He would do all the playin’ and then leave the room after tellin’ me to practice. He’d go smoke cigarettes and drink coffee with his buddies. I didn’t learn much from him. When I found garage bands in the neighborhood, I would watch the guitar players and try to remember 10 licks to practice at home. I’d be lucky to remember one. I learned much more when I was a teenager going to the Blues clubs, starting in 1973, and sittin’ right in front of the guitar player. I ended up learnin’ a lot from various Blues guys I played with. I still have my first electric guitar, a Gibson SG that I bought with paper route money when I was about 14. I have a few guitars that I’ve had most of my career. Jimmy Dawkins sold me Magic Sam’s pea colored 1962 Stratocaster that Sam’s wife gave him when he died in ’68. I got it from Jimmy in about 1981. Unfortunately, I sold it in about 2004.

When I got with John Lee Hooker’s Coast To Coast Blues Band in 1988, he was playin a Gibson 335 and so was Mike Osborne who was also in the band. At first I was playing my Guild, but John said to break up the sound, that I should play a Stratocaster. Though I sold the Magic Sam Strat, I’ve been playin’ one ever since.

I started hangin’ out with Rick Kreher who eventually played with Muddy Waters the last few years before Muddy passed. We became good friends and would go down to the Southside and Westside clubs 4 and 5 times a week. Theresa’s Lounge was like a Blues festival every night. Junior Wells and James Cotton would be there all the time. Sammy Lawhorn would be playing guitar, Byther Smith 2nd guitar, Herman Applewhite on bass and Nate Applewhite played drums. Of course there were others too. John Primer came later on. Even though I was only 18 years old, nobody ever bothered me. The only problem we ever had was with the police. They’d see Rick and I down there with long hair and would wanna know what we were doin’.

We’d go to all the clubs;The Checkerboard Lounge, which, at the time was co-owned by Buddy Guy, The Queen Bee Lounge, Florence’s Lounge where Hound Dog Taylor played all the time. After he left it became Magic Slim’s home base. There used to be a Chicago entertainment paper that I believe was called The Reader. It had 3 pages of listings for Blues clubs.

rich Kirch photo 3I kinda feel like I caught the tail end of the old Blues guys. I must’ve seen Howlin’ Wolf 50 times at places like the 1815 Club when he was in town there at the end. I remember back in 1976, Hound Dog Taylor, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed and Freddie King all died that year. (It was also the year I met John Lee Hooker). Around that time, Rick and I went to a Westside club that I believe was called the Rat Trap. It was wintertime and there was no heat in the place. The guys in the band were playin’ with their winter coats on. They were backin’ the great Hip Linkchain who let me and Rick sit in. Afterward he asked for our numbers.

A couple of weeks later, the woman I was renting a room from told me a Jimmy Dawson called. I didn’t know any Jimmy Dawson but I called the number and it was Jimmy Dawkins, whom I’d seen play many times. Hip Linkchain had given him my number. He asked me if I could do a gig with him at the Zoo Bar in Lincoln, Nebraska. That was my first out of town gig. We all drove up together. It was Tyrone Centuray on drums, Sylvester Boines on bass with myself playin’ 2nd guitar to Jimmy Dawkins. They had just returned from a tour of Japan. Jimmy Johnson quit the band when they returned and Jimmy Dawkins hired me sometime in ’75.

Now, Jimmy Dawkins had actually played the San Francisco Bay Area in the ’60s with Otis Rush at the Fillmore. He also knew Mike Bloomfield from Bloomfield’s days in Chicago. Jimmy Dawkins got ahold of of Bloomfield and got us some gigs in the Bay Area including the Keystone in Berkeley and the Sleeping Lady in Fairfax.

We drove out here in Jimmy Dawkins Suburban with all our gear. At the time Dawkins played through 2 custom bottoms with either 3 fifteen inch speakers or 3 twelves. Plus he had a Marshall. His setup came up to my chin. I was playin’ with a twin reverb and the bass player had a custom bottom though I can’t remember what size amp he used. We also crammed the drum kit and the four of us in that Suburban. After a mechanical false start, we made it to Berkeley 4 days later. We ate way too much Kentucky Fried Chicken! We met Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites outside the Keystone. Between the fall of ’76 and the winter of ’77, we must’ve done that round trip 3 times, staying out here a month or 2 at a time. I gotta say, one of the true joys of bein’ on the road as a travelin’ musician is checkin’ out the record stores and pawn shops after checkin’ in at the hotel.

In August of ’76 Bloomfield got us a gig at the Savoy-Tivoli in San Francisco. It was supposed to be Jimmy Reed’s gig, but he died the day before in Oakland. We went back to Chicago not long after that.

In June of ’77 we went to Europe and played a festival with Dr. Ross, Louisiana Red and Memphis Slim, which was very cool as we actually backed Slim. We played France, Germany and Switzerland. The French patrons of the Blues, Jacques Morgantini and his wife Marcelle, produced the tour and brought us over. Jacques produced many records for the Black & Blue label in Europe and Marcelle owned MCM Records for which Jacques directed many sessions for. They were from Pau, France and in ’75 and ’76, Marcelle and her son came to Chicago and made some important recordings in Chicago Blues clubs. I wasn’t quite in the Jimmy Dawkins band when they came in ’75, but I did the sessions they recorded of the band in ’76. During the mid-seventies I also worked with Hip Linkchain.

rich Kirch photo 4Now, I liked all those Blues guys. Muddy, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed, but John Lee was always my favorite. There was a club on the North side of Chicago, The Wise Fools, that had music seven nights a week. They’d have the out of town acts on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday with Chicago Blues on Wednesday through Saturday. This particular week in 1976, I think John Lee was playin’ on Monday and Tuesday and we, the Jimmy Dawkins Band followed him the rest of the week.

I had never seen John Lee Hooker before in a club setting. But when the drummer Tyrone Centuray and I went down to the club to see JLH, the line was down the street—it wasn’t a very big club. Because we knew the doorman as we’d played there also, he let us in. That night I got introduced to John Lee and the band including the woman singing with them at the time named Terry Aleo, whom I started hangin’ out with. Through her, every time John would come to town, I’d go pick him up at the airport. Whenever we’d play the same festivals, I would hang out with him. Gradually through those years, I got to know him more and more. Eventually he started inviting me to come see him in California. At first I thought he was just being nice, which he was, but we became great friends. Now that he’s gone, I really miss him.

I moved out here in 1988 and lived with John Lee Hooker for 3 years. At first we lived in Redwood Shores, near Redwood City. Somebody told John that property was a lot cheaper in Vallejo so he contacted a real estate woman who showed us about 3 houses. After that, John was tired and didn’t want to see anymore. The real estate person said, ‘Ok, just let me know when you want to look at some more.’ John said, ‘That’s okay. I’ll just take the big one. The blue one.’

I still remember the address. It was 163 Primrose Lane in Vallejo. It was a nice house. But John didn’t like climbin’ stairs, so he never went upstairs before he bought it. He had his room downstairs, with a sliding glass door that went out to his hot tub. Coast To Coast band member, tenor player Kenny Baker and I each had a room down the hall from John. John’s nephew Archie had a room upstairs.

JLH loved baseball. At the house he would have a game on TV, one on the radio and all the while be checkin’ on the scores of the other games bein’ played everyday. When he’d have barbecues at the house, Dusty Baker would come by. When we played Phoenix during spring training, Dusty would bring other SF Giants players to the gig.

I’m really proud to be associated with the Chicago Blues and West Coast Blues scenes. I look at the photos and posters I have and realize, just about everyone is gone from that era. It’s bittersweet.

I’ve been doin some recording down in Santa Cruz for producer Brian Brinkerhoff and Frank Swart, bass player at Need to Know Music Productions. We’re workin’ on material by Sonny Rhodes, Guitar Shorty and Cash McCall. Other guitar players involved are Duke Robillard and Harvey Mandel. I’m in a hurry to get back to it. I don’t want to waste any time.”

For more info on Rich Kirch, visit

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.

 Blues Society News 

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The Washington Blues Society – Seattle, WA

The Washington Blues Society presents The Snohomish Blues Invasion. The ninth annual one-day pub crawl styled mini-fest in Six venues on First Street in Historic Downtown Snohomish will be held Sunday, November 18th from 2 pm to 10 pm.

All the proceeds go to the IBC Fund. The star-studded list of performers who are volunteering their time and talents for the event includes The IBC entrants, Sammy Eubanks, and the Working Class, Sheri Roberts-Greimes and youth showcase duo of Nick Mardon and Miranda Kitchpanich along with; Jim McLaughlin and Kevin Sutton, Stacy Jones Band, Michele D’Amour and the Love Dealers, Jill Newman and Margret Wilder, Andy “Badd Dog” Koch, Cory Vincent, Altai, Duke and Mojo Nation, Donna Dupras, Jim Brunner, The RooTsters, Willie & the Whips, Eric Rice, Town Hall Brawl, Mule Kick, Chicken Hawk, Hot Mess, Blood Fire and Rainwater, Reji Marc , Skinny Blue, Dennis Griffiths, Lori Hardman and many more.

Information and set times at

The Charlotte Blues Society – Charlotte, NC

The Charlotte Blues Society is excited to announce its Blues Christmas Bash featuring Albert Castiglia on Sunday, December 2nd! This show only, tickets are $5 at the door for members with valid cards, and $10 for non-members. Doors at 7:00, show 8:00 – 10:00.

Advance tickets are available for $10 via PayPal. Refer to the website for information about ordering.

We continue to collect non-perishable food and household items for Loaves and Fishes. 1 can? I can!

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 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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