Issue 12-49 December 13 2018

Cover photo © 2018 Bob Kieser

 In This Issue 

Don Wilcock has our feature interview with Keith Stone with Red Gravy. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including a new album of Christmas swing music from Erin Harpe, an album of bluesified Beatle songs from Gaetano Letizia plus new music from Jenn Cleary, Barbara Blue, Reloaded, Jimmie Vaughan Trio, John Akapo and Anthony Gomes.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

jenn cleary cd imageJenn Cleary – Blues Full Of Heart

Self-produced CD

9 songs – 35 minutes

A popular vocalist and acoustic guitar player in both Boulder, Colo., where she’s based, and Key West, Fla., which she considers her second home, Jenn Cleary is backed by a full band here as she delivers a collection of the most popular songs she covers in live performance.

Her most recent album, 2010’s Back To The Wheel, was a finalist in the Colorado Blues Society’s self-produced CD competition. A veteran of several European tours, she’s a frequent performer at festivals, including Sundance and Telluride, where she’s placed highly in solo acoustic competitions, mixing blues, rock and a touch of folk. She’s also produced and hosted the TV show Behind The Song.

Cleary’s backed here by John McVey, a Nashville veteran who accompanies her on lap steel, electric guitar, bass and backing vocals. He recorded, engineered and produced this disc at Cinder Sound Studio in Longmont, Colo. They’re joined by Mad Dog Friedman, the harmonica player who works regularly with Jenn, as well as Eric Moon on grand piano and B3 organ and Christian Teele on drums. They’re augmented by Brad Morse, who provides upright bass on three cuts, and Kate Hope and Mark Oblinger, who deliver backing vocals.

Blues Full Of Heart opens with a take of “Peace Of Mind,” a tune written in the ‘60s by Jim Messina while still a member of the band Poco prior to his lengthy partnership with Kenny Loggins. According to the notes accompanying this CD, this is the first time anyone other than Messina has recorded it. Penned by Stephen Stills during his time with Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth” is up next, followed by “Ain’t Nobody’s Business,” a tune that debuted in 1922 and was first delivered by Anna Meyers.

A pleasant alto with limited vocal range and solid skills on the six-string, Jenn takes on Warren Haynes’ familiar “Soulshine” next, stripping it of his incendiary guitar licks while reinventing it as a slow, sweet ballad. The album continues with takes of Janis Joplin’s “Turtle Blues,” John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery,” Dusty Springfield’s “Son Of A Preacher Man” and Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” before finishing with Kris Kristofferson’s “Me And Bobby McGee,” another monster Joplin hit.

Available as both a disc and download from CDBaby, Blues Full Of Heart is an enjoyable release. The songs here and their arrangements are a bit too familiar. Let’s hope Cleary spices things up by adding her own material to the mix on her next release.

Reviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. Now based out of Charlotte, N.C., 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.

barbara blue cd imageBarbara Blue – Fish In Dirty H2O

Big Blue Records

13 songs – 63 minutes

Barbara Blue bills herself as “The Reigning Queen of Beale Street”, a not inaccurate title, given that she has been performing five nights a week for over 21 years at Silky O’Sullivan’s on Beale Street. Fish In Dirty H2O is the Pittsburgh, PA, native’s 11th album, and is a wonderful showcase for one of the great modern blues voices.

With seven originals and six well-chosen covers, Fish In Dirty H2O is a modern gumbo of blues, soul, R&B and even a dash of hip hop (the title track is an unusual but very successful duet with rapper Al Kapone), all superbly produced, engineered and mixed by the legendary Jim Gaines.  Blue co-wrote five songs with keyboardist Mark Narmore and Sandy Carroll, one track with Narmore alone, and penned “Accidental Theft” by herself.  Narmore is also a co-writer on the R&B ballad “Slow Burn” with its painfully accurate images of heartache: “I burned your picture. I cursed your name. Poured gasoline on those letters. Watched them go up in flames. Stood over the ashes, until there was nothing but smoke. There’s no denying that memories burn slow.”

Blue has a sharp ability to re-imagine new routes and new voices for the songs of others.  In addition to the title track, which was originally an old Koko Taylor b-side, Eric Hughes’ “Meet Me In Memphis” is given a healthy shot of funk in the arm; Scott Sharrard’s “Angeline” is re-imagined from a female perspective and re-named “Johnny Lee”; and Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen” starts off with just a resonator slide guitar and Blue’s voice, but quickly evolves into a full band grind that neatly brings out the underlying threat in the lyrics.

Barbara Blue has been described by Ronnie Earl as having a voice that is “somewhere between an earthquake and a hurricane” and it really is a remarkable instrument that Blue wields with virtuoso precision. She is also however much more nuanced than this description might lead you to believe, with a refined understanding of the essence of each song, articulated through every line of each lyric. Equally happy on the full-throated roar of the gospel-shuffle of “Dr Jesus” or the understated pain of the Etta James-styled ballad, “Walk Away”, Blue has the ability to fully inhabit each track.

Of course, it helps to have stellar musicians in support and Blue’s band on Fish In Dirty H2O are the real deal. The core band features the rhythm section of Bernard “Pretty” Purdie on drums and Dave Smith on bass, Will McFarlane on guitar (beautiful playing on “Slow Burn”), Lester Snell on keys, Lannie McMillan, Jim Spake, Marc Franklin and Steve Graham on horns and Maureen Smith, Linette “Sue” McCracklin, Candace Mache, Celia Purdie and Lorina McMinn on various backing vocals.  There are also guest appearances from Johnny Lee Schell (who adds BB King-esque fills to “Johnny Lee”), Michael Tols and Scott Sharrard (who contributes dirty, dirty slide guitar to “Accidental Theft”) on guitar, Rick Steff on B3 and Mark Narmore on keyboards.

Fish In Dirty H2O is a very impressive release from Barbara Blue. Tremendous stuff.

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

jenn cleary ad image

 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

reloaded cd imageReloaded – My Longest Mile

Bluestown Records

10 songs time – 39:31

Although this Norwegian band is touted in their promo sheet as a blues-rock outfit, the music of Reloaded is attitude rock headed by the sassy and brassy vocals of Heidi Blasma. They boast the classic rock line up-guitar, bass, keyboards and drums. The band rocks strong and hard behind Heidi, who also penned all the songs. Three guest artists are listed, but their is no indication of what they contribute. At times her slight accent hinders the comprehension of the lyrics, but no biggie.

The poppy rock of “Bigger Balls” includes the oft repeated line-“I’m hazy, I’m woozy”. The band drives the song along nicely. A really forceful vocal delivery and a catchy guitar riff along with lyrics with plenty of attitude infuse “Saturday Night Diva”. Atmospheric acoustic slide guitar gives way to electric slide and organ on the title tune. We get to fully appreciate Heidi’s throaty and authoritative pipes here. A hearty rhythm and gritty slide propels the nicely noisy “Devil’s Kiss”, as Heidi talk-sings her way through.

Hans Trasti Isaken once again unleashes his wicked slide work to breath life into the muscular “Up Yours”. “Majority’s Mask” is some sort of a political statement. “Listen Now” slows down the pace in this guitar charged rocker. A tough vocal paired with an irresistible riff makes “Definitely Maybe Baby” a sure fire keeper. A sassy vocal imbues the narrator’s tale of being born a mistake in the hard luck saga of “Born Without Rhythm”. The slow, simmering burner “I Pray For You” wraps up this rockin’ CD. “When you pray for rain, you gotta deal with the mud too”.

A tough rocker vibe is the gist of the sound found here. Gritty vocals get a sturdy foundation by this first rate band. The entire proceedings have an air of intrigue hanging over them. It’s like a breath of fresh air.

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

lawrence lebo album advertisemsnt image

 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 8 

jimmie vaughan trio cd imageJimmie Vaughan Trio – Live at C-Boy’s

Proper Records

8 songs/36 minutes

Hip Blues Blast readers are in the know about who Jimmie Vaughan is and his importance to the Blues world. But, for any uninitiated, Jimmie Vaughan is one of the greatest Blues guitarist of all time. Throughout his long influential career he has been a torchbearer (along with contemporaries such as Ronnie Earl, Duke Robillard and John Primer) for clear authentic electric guitar sound. Vaughan’s Blues is a Texas hybrid of R&B, shuffling two-step and greasy Chicago, with a hint of New Orleans groove for seasoning. Jimmie developed this style early on with musical partner Kim Wilson in The Fabulous Thunderbirds and has grown and innovated since he started his solo career in the early 90’s.

Mr. Vaughan is a generous collaborator and a humble band leader which is reaffirmed in his newest album Live at C-Boy’s. Attributed to the Jimmie Vaughan Trio with the subtitle “featuring Mike Flanigin” this record is a document of three Austin, TX legends chilling and having a great time communicating musically. The song selections are almost immaterial, it is the unique contributions of Vaughan, Hammond B3 master Flanigin and dearly departed drummer Frosty Smith that make this 36 minutes of organ trio Soul Jazz shine.

Mike Flanigin is a student of the Blues. It is highly recommended that everyone follow him on Instagram. He has been posting a Blues master class on the formational Blues records that influenced him. Flanigin has been having a big year after producing Sue Foley’s excellent return to the Blues limelight The Ice Queen (which Vaughan also contributed too). Flanigin is the type of B3 player who creates his own band, with a left hand technique as strong as Big John Patton’s or Jack McDuff’s and a musical acuity to melody like Larry Young or Jimmy Smith.

Frosty Smith, who passed away in April of 2017 after long battles with illness, was one of the most expressive drummers on the Austin scene. Smith played with a who’s who of Texas musicians including Alejandro Escovedo, Junior Brown, Marcia Ball, Doug Sahm and the Texas Mavericks, and Omar and the Howlers. Smith was the type of drummer who took every drum in the set as a uniquely voiced instrument and created torrents of music. On almost every chorus of every song on Live at C-Boy’s, Smith creates ever changing dynamics and vibes while still holding down the foundation of the song. This is essential technique for an organ trio and what makes this album the pure joy it is to listen to.

Let’s not forget our band leader. Jimmie Vaughan’s clean Stratocaster guitar style is the epitome of cool. This guitar sound coupled with his vintage clothes style and pompadour hair has made Vaughan the embodiment of the slick Bluesman. Vaughan’s playing is effortlessly melodic and astonishingly tasteful. He has a fraction of a second lag in his phrasing that creates so much drama, making the listener wait for the resolution of his riffs. It is infectious.

Live at C-Boy’s is mostly instrumental and therefore allows the musicians to stretch, giving the music space to breath and develop. Flanigin and Vaughan share lead duties. The deep dark take on “Saint James Infirmary” is a B3 vehicle, which Flanigin takes into the stratosphere on the final choruses. There is an almost unrecognizable instrumental take on the Beatles “Can’t Buy Me Love.” Re-framing the iconic chorus as a hard bop head, guitar and organ play the melody in unison. There are three songs featuring vocals. A sing-a-long pass at “Hey! Baby” gets the whole bar into the action. Flanigin sings a shuffling “Come On Rock Little Girl.” The vocal winner, though, is Jimmie’s testifying of “Dirty Work at the Crossroads.” An underrated singer, Vaughan opens up the floodgates on “Dirty Work” and lays it down hard.

Live at C-Boy’s is an essential album. The intimate live club setting puts the listener into the room, witnessing this powerful, fun-loving and engaging music. This is real deal Blues and Soul Jazz at its finest.

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.

winter blues fest ad image

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

erin harpe cd imageErin Harpe & The Delta Swingers – The Christmas Swing

Juicy Juju/Vizztone Label Group

10 tracks

Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers have released their first holiday album which follows their well regarded second album from 2017 Big Road. Erin penned a couple of new tracks and she and the band put their swinging spin on 8 familiar and popular Christmas hit songs.   It’s a romping and jumping stomp to get you ready for the holidays.

Erin’s guitar and vocals lead the charge here while Jim Countryman plays bass, snaps and claps, Matt “Charles” Prozialeck is on harp and Chris Anzalone is on drums and percussion.  Richard Rosenblatt appears on harp on “The Christmas Swing,” a tune he and Erin reworked from their 2014 “Delta Swing” hit song.  Harpe also wrote “The Night Before Christmas.”

The tone is set with a dirty, slide guitar version of “Jingle Bell Blues.”  The beat throbs, the harp greases things up and the slide work and solo make for a lot of fun as Harpe and the Band kick things off with a slow temp swing rework of the holiday classic.  It becomes quickly evident this is not like Bing Crosby’s or Perry Como’s Christmas albums!  Following that is “Merry Christmas,” delivered as a tasty, slow blues.  Harpe exudes her persona and she and the band move Santa towards at least an R-rated celebration that she invites the jolly old elf to.  Big, ringing guitar, more dripping with grease harp and a very deliberate beat along with Erin’s vocals make this a winner.

The original “Night Before Christmas” gives a nice high pitched harp intro as Erin gets into reciting the Clement Clarke Moore poem to a swinging melody and beat with nice harp support.  It’s a lot of fun.  “At The Christmas Ball” features a piano guest appearance by John Juxo as Harpe delivers an old fashioned music hall performance and the kazoo gets a nice little solo to boot in this Bessie Smith song! Next is an eclectic cover of a 2010 eclectic song by Lost Lou Psyche entitled “Merry Christmas (Here I Come),” a swinging punk rock-ish song with Ms. Psyche yelling and dirty harp.  Harpe adds echo on the vocals and some cool backing vocals along with claps and snaps.  She enhances the greasy harp and the guitar is swinging in this, too.  It’s weirdly fun.

“The Christmas Swing” begins the second half of the CD.   Cymbals crash and the guitar and harp get a mid tempo swing going as Harpe testifies vocally.  She gives us another nice guitar solo, too.  She and Rosie have a nice little new Xmas song here. Leadbelly’s “Christmas Is A-Comin'” is next with more swinging guitar and harp blazing. The folky Leadbelly song is transformed into a Texas/Southwest Swing tune and it works well.

Bo Carter’s “Drink and Get Drunk” follows, not really a Christmas song but who can recall a Christmas holiday where perhaps drinking to a little excess did not occur?  Erin spices up the Bo Carter tune and the harp punctuates here vocals nicely.  Her washboard and her kazoo also makes an appearance here. Harpe also gives us some nice Chuck Berry licks and a super solo on guitar in “Run Run Rudolph.” The backline and harp work frantically to drive the pace of this and it’s another cool cover in an original style.  The album concludes with “Auld Lang Syne,” sung acapella with interesting harmonies that she adds herself. And just when you think it’s done, what to our wondering eyes does appear but her kazoo (which takes us home with the final chorus on the fine instrument).

This is a fun and eclectic Christmas album that  I thoroughly enjoyed.  Just last week I sifted through my collection and took out my top 85 Christmas CDs to enjoy this season and this appeared for review.  I will be giving it many more spins this holiday season and beyond.  It was a joy to listen to and if you are looking for a swinging and bluesy new Christmas CD then you need look no further. Kudos to Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers for this fine new holiday CD!

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.

 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

gaetano letiziz cd imageGaetano Letizia & The Blues Underworld Band – Beatles Blues Blast


17 tracks/66 minutes

The Cleveland, Ohio born and bred blues man Gaetano Letizia has now released three albums with his Underworld Blues Rock Band.  Along with Letizia on vocals and guitar are Lenny Gray on bass and Mike D’Elia  on drums.  They also do the backing vocals for Gaetano. Letizia takes a very jazzy and funky approach to his guitar and vocals and here he takes 17 classic Beatle cuts and returns them to their blues roots.

Letizia was raised in the midst of the British invasion so he is more than familiar with the Beatles and their music. They recorded the album in one day live in the studio and you can tell the boys were having fun with this stuff.  The lo-fi approach sounds perfect for the material and how it’s covered.  It’s an interesting ride through about 10% of the Beatles’ songbook.

The CD begins with “Come Together,” a cut that lends itself nicely to the blues.  Letizia gives us a bluesy, funky groove to savor for this opening song from the Fab Fours’ last studio release. D’Elia lays out some drum licks to start “Do It In The Road” a la McCartney in the original.  Gaetano gives us some pretty guitar licks in his two solos and then goes funky with the effect peddle to make things more interesting.  The earlier hit “Drive My Car” gets new treatment with some more nice guitar and a gutsy lead vocal.  Cowbell and percussion are highlighted for fun, too. Next up is “Money” which gets s funky and big guitar lead and long solo time along with a fun drum solo. “Taxman” sounds more like a Stevie Ray Vaughn Texas shuffle which makes for an interesting cover.  A slower, more deliberate approach seems almost natural and makes for another great cover. The guitar work showcased is quite cool. Harrison’s classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is up next with a bit of a samba treatment going on. Letezia offers up a breathy, metered vocal to fit the samba pacing.  He still manages to get some wicked guitar licks in. “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” is more Joe Cocker than Beatle version but he takes it into a funky direction, too. “I Want You” becomes more psychedelic and proto-metal in its’ approach.  The driving guitar gets distorted and the harmonized vocals turn more into a call and response.  “And I love Her” is given a instrumental Latin and Santana sort of makeover and it’s quite cool.

“Can’t Buy Me Love” goes from pop and bubbly to gritty and dirty Chicago blues. Stinging vocals and guitar make this makeover different and well done. The pedals come out again for “You Can’t Do That” with a fuzzed up and raucous approach. The ballad “Yesterday” is turned into a somber blues rhumba which works well. “Get Back” rocks out and the stinging guitar solos give this a new face. ”With A Little Help from My Friends” gets dramatic with big rock vocals and big guitar.  “Birthday” from the White Album” gets a nice groove going and the guitar work is exceptional. “Blackbird” goes country blues with finger   picked notes and a simple but punctuating drum groove.  The bass counters the guitar and makes it even more cool with long instrumental runs that are neat. Sgt. Peppers ends with “Day In The Life” as does this album. The song builds in intensity as the vocals grow and the guitar gets more rocked out and distorted to build to a climax.

The first time through I was less impressed.  But another play showed me that these guys respected the originals and really wanted to give then new life and put their spin on them, which they did.  Letizia’s vocals reminded me at times of Jimmy Thackery where he gets that gruff and almost off key stuff going to make a point and then builds back into a more traditional vocal approach. 

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.

jim alchin ad image

 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8 

john akapo cd imageJohn Akapo – Paradise Blues

Mensch House Records

CD: 10 Songs, 34:00 Minutes

Styles: Traditional Acoustic Blues, Solo Album, Debut Album

What more perfect title for a genre album could there be than Paradise Blues, by Hawaiian debut artist John Akapo? For fans, the blues is paradise, and so much the better to play them in the midst of paradise. Aloha State locals have a saying: “hang loose.” It perfectly describes Akapo’s style: casual, good-natured, freeform and laid-back. He doesn’t cling to traditional rhythms or formulas, though his music possesses a classic sound. Akapo’s vocals are clear and slightly gravelly, a trucker’s pipes lubricated with a dash of Bacardi coconut rum. Featuring seven original tracks and three perennial cover favorites (“Ramblin’ on my Mind,” “I Can’t Be Satisfied” and “Big Road Blues”), John’s debut CD is as sweet and juicy as fresh pineapple.

Even though musical heritage runs deep within his family, John’s parents did their best to shield him and his brothers from the pitfalls of the rock-and-roll lifestyle, such as addiction. “[They] were firmly against the idea of me taking up the guitar,” he reveals in his promotional materials. “I would have to hide my interest in singing and especially playing. . .I looked to my brother’s friend for guitar lessons and dove into a wormhole of music that I have never climbed back out of.” In regards to his home state and the state of the genre within it, he says, “The blues fans that have seen me play appreciate the fact that I’m from Hawaii, yet I make them feel like they’re at home in the mainland. The blues is at home here in the Islands, and it’s nothing new.”

Not only does Akapo play great solo acoustic guitar, but the album features tasty harmonica and kinky percussion. On the CD, however, no other performers are listed or mentioned.

The three original songs below have the tangiest Island flavor and the tangiest blues as well.

Track 02: “Little Lani” – The female subject of this track has a name meaning “sky,” and she’s driving our narrator straight towards it in terms of insanity. “Hey, Little Lani, what you doing in my car? What you doing in my house? You give me the blues, baby, them old Samoan boy blues” (though he lives in Hawaii, his familial roots are Samoan). Akapo channels Eric Clapton at his most Unplugged.

Track 07: “Hindsight” (Missionary Blues) – This is a giant kick in the teeth to colonialism, pure and simple. Akapo warns native Hawaiians not to let European missionaries come: “Can you hear them calling? Don’t let them come ashore. What once was all yours will be all yours no more” – their homes, their food and water, even their language. Played with the bare bones of ukulele and somber vocals, “Hindsight” is a 20/20 denunciation of practices that used to be not only normal, but sanctioned by “civilized” society.

Track 08: “Lord Help Me” – Featuring wicked slide guitar and keen Piedmont style, number eight is a cry for aid when money’s scarce, the job’s a drag, and the bank is uncooperative. Human help may not be on the way, but divine intervention might be a surer remedy.

“I think the entire blues scene could use some of this Paradise Blues,” John Akapo states. Yours truly concurs!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 38 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 8 

anthony gomer cd imageAnthony Gomes – Peace, Love, and Loud Guitars

Up 2 Zero Entertainment/MAPL

CD: 12 Songs, 52:27 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, All Original Songs

“Hot sauce.” “Ice-cold Coca-Cola.” “Free adult beverages.” When a sign or slogan promises something, it had better deliver. When Canada’s Anthony Gomes promises Peace, Love, and Loud Guitars, no one on earth would sue him for false advertising. The album is jam-packed with all three things, featuring empowering messages that wisely take a back seat to the medium: i.e., the loud guitars shine first and foremost. Fans of classic/pure blues might frown when they discover that Gomes leans far to the rock side of blues rock. However, he makes up for this possible shortcoming with excellent songwriting. All twelve tracks are original, and not only that, they are incredibly well-arranged. In this age of autotune and rhythms chosen by algorithm, these refreshing pluses will catapult Anthony’s latest to the top of the blues rock charts in no time flat. When it comes to Gomes’ vocals, he’s Rod Stewart on steroids with a dash of whiskey. Supported by a Greek chorus of background singers (listed in the “Cast of Characters” section of the CD liner notes), Gomes gets in one’s face and ears with his take-no-prisoners style.

Gomes (rhymes with “homes”) is the Stephen King of the blues rock world in terms of prolific production and critical acclaim. He’s produced eleven full-length albums, and five of his most recent have appeared in the Top 10 on the Billboard blues charts. Live, his 2008 release, debuted at #1. Ten years later, he’s more than ready to repeat that feat. Anthony is also a blues scholar and historian and founded the Music is the Medicine organization in 2010, providing grants and scholarships to budding artists in need.

The short version of the “Cast of Characters” for this album is as follows: leading man Gomes on vox and guitar; Mike Brignardello on bass, Greg Morrow on drums and percussion; David Smith on keyboards; Chris Leuzinger on acoustic guitar, and Angie Primm, Gale Stuart, Devonne Fowlkes, and A.G. himself on backup vocals. Check out “Gang Vocals” for many more credits.

From start to finish, Anthony and company bowl listeners over, and these three songs prove it.

Track 01: “Come Down” – A foot-stomping ode to B.B. King, the album’s opener contains one of the catchiest choral intros of 2018. Harmonious and high-energy, it’ll get people singing along even if their pipes are a little rusty. “There’s no one here that can wear your crown,” Gomes proclaims in regards to his idol. “Fly on down on an angel’s wing; tell Lucille it’s time to sing!” A flawless mixture of gospel and blues rock, “Come Down” is a surefire attention-grabber.

Track 05: “The Whiskey Made Me Do It” – Folks, alcohol makes you lose your inhibitions, but it can also make you lose your inhibitions if you’re not careful. That’s what this Chicago-style shuffle aims to tell you. Our hero ends up kissing his girlfriend’s sister, doing more than that, and ending up in a jail cell (after being sentenced by his gal’s father, a judge). “Drinking triple, seeing double, acting single – now I’m in trouble!” Truer words were never spoken.

Track 09: “Your Mama Wants to Do Me (And Your Daddy Wants to Do Me In)” – A guilty-pleasure tune if there ever was one, naughty number nine is worth more than one listen for this line alone: “Good girls go to heaven; bad girls go backstage.” Yow! More great harmonies are on the way here, plus a wicked guitar solo.

Peace, Love and Loud Guitars delivers what it promises – in spades!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 38 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

joe rosen book ad image

 Featured Interview – Keith Stone with Red Gravy 

red gravy photo 1When asked what the advantages and disadvantages are of being a musician in New Orleans guitarist and lead singer Keith Stone responds by saying, “That’s a loaded question.” He is one of two natives of New Orleans in the group Keith Stone with Red Gravy. The other is drummer Eddie Christian who says simply being a musician in New Orleans saved his life.

Bass player Kennan Shaw originally from California says, “I’d been going to New Orleans for years just to decompress and to hang out and just take in the music, and eat the food. I had owned a place a very small little place with my ex-wife just before Katrina.”

Tom Worrell, keyboardist and producer of Red Gravy’s first album is from Iowa. He says being a musician in New Orleans means everything. “I owe New Orleans my entire career as I can call it, a career now and by a career, I mean something that satisfies me in a real deep way. It’s not necessarily about the money of anything. I’m just saying it makes me feel like I’m making a contribution, or I’m involved in something.”

Chicago, Memphis, St. Louis, Clarksdale and Helena, Arkansas all have reputations for being the home of the blues. But New Orleans is the only town whose heart not only pumps the blood of the genre, but that bloodstream feeds every pore of the body that is the Crescent City. Music isn’t just a niche in a part of the city even though Bourbon St. is the fulcrum. But music IS the city. It’s everywhere, and the musicians who play there live the life 24/7. It draws artist from around the world, and the groups that form there seem to be made up of artists, each one of whom could be called a band leader.

Keith Stone grew up on the streets of the French Quarter. He jammed with street musicians, working his way up to being in one of Bourbon Street’s most popular Show Bands playing the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest. “The good thing about having that many musicians (in New Orleans) is that it keeps you on your toes. It also keeps an influx of ideas. When you have one idea, it marries with another idea of the land. You get creativity, and so it breeds creativity. It becomes a Petri dish of creativity, but it can be a challenge at different times. We all play with different bands in this band. So, this is our project.

“This is our pet project. This is what we want to do, but to do that sometime if you live in any other city you might have to go and work a day job. Well, our day job is playing music, because you can start playing music in New Orleans in some places as early as 10 a.m., or you can get a gig from 12 to 4, and then you can be off, make a day’s wage, and you can go and play another gig later on, and you can go have a little fun with creating music in a way that maybe please you a little bit more than maybe pleases the tourists that come to New Orleans, and we love playing with them.

Kennan Shaw loves New Orleans “because nothing works quite the way it’s supposed to. Coming from California, and the last year I lived in Los Angeles, I’d tell people, ‘Look, when you get to New Orleans, walk off the plane, take a deep breath and drop your shoulders and just take your time. Nothing is going to be the way it is in California.’

“The truth is, and I’ve told people this forever, I moved to New Orleans for the New Orleans drummers. New Orleans drummers are heaven. It’s a unique approach to rhythm. The standard boom-pop, boom-pop you might follow in a band anywhere else is just at the heart. The heart beat is still there, but there’s different flavors and spices that go with that. Now, I’m so lucky to be able to work with some of the drummers I do including Eddie Christmas. I know who he was before I moved down here, and now we’re in this band together.”

red gravy photo 2Drummer Eddie Christman has toured with Gerald Levert and The Black Crows. He’s played on Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen’s Mo’ Hippa, Live in Australia record. During Mardi Gras season he seems to play constantly and still make his 7 a.m. church gig.

“I grew up in the church. I started playing drums in church and so that’s my background. I’ve had people tell me over the year that I missed my calling to be a minister. My mom taught at the Bible College in New Orleans for 43 years before she passed a couple of years ago, and I guess you could say I was scared to actually go that route. My mom taught at the Bible College. My dad was a gangster.

“They were married for a long time. My dad was from Natchez, Mississippi and my mom’s from Faraday. They both raised my mom’s siblings when my grandmother died, and I couldn’t understand how – it was pretty much like being married to Satan to have somebody who was really heavy into The Word experience get married and spend every day of her life with someone who disagrees pretty much with that.

“I’m the only boy. I have three sisters. I’m the only boy. Music is a gift from God, and Mom is my number one supporter, made sure I went to the best school in the city St. Augustine High School, went to Bible School of music and graduated.”

Keyboardist Tom Worrell played East Berlin with Solomon Burke just after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He’s performed with Johnny Adams, Deacon John, Marva Wright, Mem Shannon, Walter Wolfman Washington, Johnny Sansone, The Wild Magnolias and Shebe Kimbrough and recorded with the Wild Magnolias, J. Monque’D, and The Professor Longhair Foundation Presents Piano Night at Tipitina’s CD.

He shrugs about his credit as the producer of Red Gravy’s Blues with A Taste of New Orleans. “(the title producer) is a misnomer in a certain way because now it appears the listing of a CD if it’s self-released it often was self-produced. Producer usually means they pay for it, and back in the old days of the music business a producer was somebody with connections. One of the first producers I worked with was Dick Darnell. He was John Denver’s producer and Sugarloaf and all these different people in Colorado. That’s who I worked for, and that’s what he did. He did production deals where he’d get a band and have them live in a car or something on peanut butter and bread and take half the advance from the record company and go buy a Subaru with the hopes of getting them a record deal.

“So, a producer can be a charlatan. It can be legit, but it’s lost a lot of clout. Everyone has home recording here. Everyone has – I mean. The way I looked at it with these young people well, that I produce, I’m trying to actualize what they’re hearing. I’m not trying to eclipse or add to it in a way that doesn’t belong there.

Tom’s production on the Red Gravy CD shows the kind of eclectic gumbo of blues and R&B one might expect from the New Orleans band.

“We worked a lot of it up in what they call preproduction. We worked a lot of it up in a kind of rehearsal. I would bounce ideas off everybody, and they would come up with ideas as well, and then we would kind of go from there, but I mean it takes a lot of faith for someone to allow you to do that.”

On the part of Keith?

red gravy photo 3“Keith and everyone else. They’re all highly accomplished musicians. I think we may have a slight credit writing on a couple, but Keith primarily is the writer. I am primarily the main arranger and definitely the producer in that I have the last call. Ok, that was correct. Or we have to do this phrase again. They’re basically all trusting me to hear things.”

Keith Stone’s first paying gig was opening for Rufus Thomas in a band called Slu Foot Blues Band. He left New Orleans to become Pastor Stone for a large church in South Carolina, only to return to the Crescent City after Hurricane Katrina to found a non-profit organization that recruited thousands of volunteers and raised millions of dollars for Katrina relief and recovery. In 2011, he capped off his ministerial career officiating the funeral of New Orleans icon Coco Robicheaux.

Perhaps nowhere in musical history is there a story of redemption so powerful as that of the musical community’s response to the unparalleled devastation of that horrible disaster.

Kennan Shaw: “The first time I went back to New Orleans after Katrina was as soon as the airport opened. No one knew what state property was in. So, I had gone down in 2004 right after the storm and kind of went through that. It was horrifying in a sense that the stages of grief everybody was working through, and they were already up to here, and you’d go out and talk to people who had lived through the storm, and they’d go home and just sit and stare at the wall for a while because you couldn’t really take in what they had been through. So, there’ a lot of post-traumatic stress disorder that goes on in that city anyway.

“When I first got down there, there was a few people that I know, and I called them and told them I’m in town now and looking for work. I’d get a call to go do a gig, and I’d show up at the gig, and it would be me and somebody I’d kind of known and two guys I’d never met before, and we’d just play, and that’s kind of how you get into any of it down there.”

No one was prepared for horror that was Katrina, but if any of the four members of Red Gravy could say they had been pre-hardened for the jolt it would be Eddie Christian.

“All my friends were in and out of jail, came from parents strung out who were staying with aunties and uncles. It was like 13 other countries. My oldest daughter is second year in college. My second youngest is a junior this year. I tell them all the time the difference when I was a kid and some of their friends been there. Some of their siblings been on drugs and shit. Some of my friends had to do that. By the time they were teens in and out of jail for stealing and shit like that.

“My mom made sure that I did not get caught up. When everyone was going here, she said no, you can’t go there. We’d go to church five or six times a week, man. I hated that as a kid. I thought I was missing out on everything. I’m always about being positive even when somebody says, “Man, my daddy is fucked up.” I say, ‘You know what? Your daddy is really not that bad. My dad is actually worse than what you’ve got going on. You’re alive and well. Somebody didn’t wake up this morning.’ This is what I mean, but you really don’t want to eat it. Somebody doesn’t have any food. So, I look at it from that perspective.

“My sister before me, my parents had her, they were trying to have a boy, and they had a girl. So, she got all the bad shots. My daddy would treat her like a boy. He would take her to shoot guns, (doing) cocaine and all that kind of stuff. My mom had no idea. She went to the doctor for one of her regular checkups, and she was three months pregnant. She (mom) had no idea she was pregnant. Now, she was pregnant again.

“They finally had a boy. My dad was very supportive of my music. He didn’t want me to follow his route. People in the neighborhood – we say in the hood – had respect for my father and my mother. So, they wouldn’t let me do certain things, too. I would be the only kid on the block with drumsticks. Everybody else would have drugs. If they thought I was selling drugs, they would beat my ass, and they would take me to my dad, and he would beat my ass, too. That would happen a lot ’cause, like I say, it’s hard, man. Like all your friends are doing certain things. You think those things are cool, but like I said, music saved my life. That’s why I’m here today, man. My mom made sure I did other things than what the other kids were doing.

red gravy photo 4“Katrina was an eye opener on so many levels, on many levels. Everybody has their (impression), but it was an eye opener to those who was there. I was on tour when Katrina was hitting. We were coming from Japan, and we got to L.A. at the airport, and everybody was looking at the TV. Our phones were like off for 24 hours. When we landed, it was the aftermath happening. I lost a lot of friends. I lost family. I lost an older brother. I had an older brother who was trying to swim for one side of Carlton Ave to the other side of the street with my niece and nephew and he got lost. We haven’t found him.”

Did that change the environment in New Orleans?

“It changed a whole lot. New Orleans is back, but it’s not totally back. There’s still a lot to be done. There’s still room for progress. Music is a universal language. That has definitely carried.

Does Christmas think that if Katrina had happened in another city like what we encountered in Puerto Rico, the residents would not have been able to bounce back the way New Orleans did because they had the music to keep them sane?

“Yes and no. I think it depends on you. If you’ve ever been to New Orleans, everybody is ‘Hey, how ya doing, man?’ ‘Hey, what’s up, baby? That’s the vibe. That’s the whole shit. I’ve been back in New Orleans as a resident for two years ’cause there is no city like it. You get off gigs and from wherever you’re playing at to wherever you stay, you can stop at three or four bars on the way home. There’s people there. They’re playing music. If not music and a live band, there’s a jukebox.

“In New York you get a slice of pizza. In New Orleans I can literally sit down and have a gumbo at 3 o’clock in the morning, and that’s what’s special about the city, and I think those things are the things that allow us to keep going and keep pushing, you know? It’s about staying positive.”

Eddie teaches classes and clinics, helping kids develop music fundamental skills and setting them on the right track to becoming great drummers and percussionists.

In their liner notes to the CD is the following observation: There’s a joke about New Orleans musicians that goes, “There’s only one band in the whole town, but it has five thousand members.” Stone sees that as an advantage and a disadvantage. “It can be a challenge, and it’s a blessing at the same time. You get to meet so many people, and they come to New Orleans, and some of the ones that come from out of town, they’re the ones that teach us locals about our history and heritage because sometimes you can take things for granted in your hometown. We get guys that come in from out of town, and they have his zeal, and the fire, and this passion about New Orleans, and its music. Man, they start teaching you about that stuff, and sometimes I scratch my head, and I go why didn’t I learn about that when I was a kid in school? So, it’s both a blessing and a challenge at the same time, but I think overall, it’s good.”

Visit Red Gravy’s website at:

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

 Blues Society News 

 Send your Blues Society’s BIG news or Press Release about your not-for-profit event with the subject line “Blues Society News” to: email address image

Maximum of 175 words in a Text or MS Word document format (No graphics allowed).

The Charlotte Blues Society – Charlotte, NC

The Charlotte Blues Society is pleased to announce its January Blues Bash on 6 January, 2019. The show will feature our International Blues Challenge band competition winners, the Chris Clifton Band, and the Solo/Duo winner, Jake HaldenVang, who will represent us at the IBC in Memphis.

Doors are at 7:00; music from 8:00 to 10:00, followed by an open blues jam. Admission is free to members with valid cards, and only $5.00 to others. The show will be at the Rabbit Hole, 1801 Commonwealth Ave., Charlotte, NC 28205.

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

The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for Blue Monday live performances held every Monday night at e Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 8:00pm to midnight. Additional information on any performer listed below is available upon request.

Dec 12 – Joe Asselin & the Moonlight Ramblers, Dec 17 – Studebaker John, Dec 26 – The Baaad Boyz, Jan 7 – Chris Camp and His Blues Ambassadors, Jan14 – Dave Weld & The Imperial Flames, Jan 21 – The Groove Daddies, Jan 28 – Billy Galt & the Blues Deacons, Feb 2 – David Lumsden, Feb 18 – Emily Burgess, Feb 25 – The Rockin’ Jake Band, March 3 – The Nick Schnebelen Band For more information visit

BB logo

P.O. Box 721 Pekin, Illinois 61555 © 2018 Blues Blast Magazine (309) 267-4425

Please follow and like us: