Issue 12- 8 February 22, 2018

Joel Paterson cover photo

Cover photo © 2018 Marilyn Stringer

 In This Issue 

Marty Gunther has our feature interview with Joel Paterson. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including a book by “Chicago” Carl Snyder plus new music from Laurie Morvan, Magnus Berg, Danielle Nicole, Norman Jackson Band, Michael Packer, The Jimmy Smith Band and Johnny Max Band.

Our videos of the week are of Joel Paterson.

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

 From The Editor’s Desk 

Hey Blues Fans,

Blues Blast is proud to feature one of THE best guitar players this week, Joel Paterson. I first saw Joel playing with the award winning band The Cash Box Kings. He shares guitar duties with another Chicago guitar legend, Billy Flynn in that group.

Joel is really a guitar player’s guitar player and is an expert in the styles of many famous and not so famous guitar players. He is fluent in styles of guitar players from the 1930’s onward. With his own trio, The Modern Sounds, he plays a wide range of music from such guitar legends as Django Reinhardt, Scotty Moore, Chet Atkins and Merle Travis and many others. Joel doesn’t make faces or emotive gestures when he plays. He just plays the hell out of that guitar!

He does lots of exotic style medleys and we are featuring a medley of all the Scotty Moore guitar solos from The Elvis Sun Sessions that Joel posted on Youtube just after Scotty passed in 2016 along with a couple more this week.

Once at a River City Blues Society show featuring The Modern Sounds, Joel called off another of his guitar style medleys. But this night Joel called a medley that made me do a double take, a medley of the styles of the guitar players from the Lawrence Welk show! What? Really?

Two things came to mind, first what kind of guitarist, even a guitar geek, does such a medley? The second thing that came to mind was who the heck even knows who the guitar players from the Lawrence Welk show were?

I learned that night who Neil LeVang and Buddy Merrill were. No, those guy were not blues but man were they ever great pickers!

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

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Blues Blast Magazine’s Early Bird Special is our lowest priced advertising of the 2018 year. It offers an affordable & effective way to get the Blues word out!

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

lauroe morvan cd imageLaurie Morvan – Gravity

Screaming Lizard Records

12 tracks

This is guitar slinger Laurie Morvan’s sixth CD. She wrote all the songs and is featured on guitar and vocals. Tony Braunegal produced the album and is part of the band; they are Bob Glaub on bass, Braunagel on drums and percussion, Mike Finnigan and Jim Pugh and Barry Goldberg on keys and Lisa Morvan on backing vocals. Braunegal has brought in his “crew” of musicians and they deliver a smooth and tight performance in support of Morvan. Recorded at Ultratone Studios, this project was slated for 2014 but an unfortunate wrist fracture sidelined Morvan and required two surgeries to correct it.

Hailing from Long Beach, California Morvan first came into the limelight as a finalist in the 2008 IBC as a band and for best self produced CD with Cures What Ails Ya. In 2010 her album Fire It Up won the Best Self Produced CD award and was again a semi-finalist in 2012 with her 2011 release Breathe Deep.

Things begin with “My Moderation,” a cut where Morvan sings that her moderation needs to be held in check with moderation. She tells us life is too short to take it slow so instead of holding back just let go. There is some nice guitar work here and the B3 by Finnigan stands out, too. Morvan delivers a stellar solo on “Twice the Trouble” that is up next. “Stay With Me” follows, a cool, slow blues with Finnigan on B3 and Pugh on piano. Morvan offers a thoughtful solo on this one. “Money Talks” features Goldberg on the piano and he delivers a fine performance as Morvan bemoans her money waving goodbye as it flies out the door. Her guitar wotrk is spot on once again, Finnigans B3 lends a great hand, too. Next is “The Extra Mile,” a song with a bit of a funky, slow groove. Morvan’s guitar plays a big part in this one. The title track concludes the first half of the set. Morvan mixes physics and emotions to express the attraction of her to her love. It’s a pretty blues ballad with her wife Lisa singing along with her.

Things pick up a bit with “Dance in the Rain” as Morvan sings and picks in this lively cut. Morvan is featured with another big solo on guitar and Pugh’s B3 fills in admirably. Up next is “Gotta Dig Deep,” a slower tempo-ed piece about having to gut out thing when life gets tough. Another tasty solo for Morvan here, too. “The Man Who Left Me” features Morvan and four backing vocalists. This is a mournful tune about the first man who loved her and then left her after 5 years, her Father. Morvan and Company take us to church as she tells us about her search for her father. “Shake Your Tailfeathers: is a bit more positive and picks up the pace a tad. This is a song about shaking your tailfeathers to break the spell of being down. A soulful guitar a la BB King, B3 and a little piano are up front. “I Want Answers” follows, a more up tempo cut but still with some negativity to the topic. The quartet of backing vocalists return to respond to the call and provide a cool backdrop. Pugh’s piano and organ gets some time and Morvan’s guitar is center stage as the song builds to a big conclusion. The final cut gets a little funky; “Too Dumb to Quit” is a slow to mid tempo song about not being able to recognize that the relationship needed to end and that it went on too long. More mournful guitar with some well done slide and vocals filled with despair are displayed here for all to witness.

Morvan’s guitar work is solid and never overdone. Her vocals take on a breathy sort of husky tone. The songs here tend toward being down tempo and somber in nature which could give the listener a good case of the blues. The album is quite good. Morvan is a pro and Braunegal’s watcheful ear made sure everything sounds and plays out tightly and succinctly. It’s good to have her back after that layoff!

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.


 Music Reviewers Wanted 

Do you really know your Blues and enjoy telling others about it?

Blues Blast Magazine is looking for a few good writers to volunteer to help us out. We need reviewers who know Blues and can write a minimum of one review each week. We will provide access to downloads or physical CDs, DVDs and books for review. The writer keeps the album, book or DVD for doing the review. We get music submissions from all over the world. We publish music reviews each week so there is a steady flow of things that need to be reviewed.

These are volunteer positions that need a person who really loves the Blues and wants to spread the Blues word! Must have good writing and composition skills, good grammar and spelling!

Must be familiar with WordPress software to enter the reviews or be willing to learn. (If you are familiar with Microsoft Word, it is similar. Very easy to use!)

Experienced writers are encouraged to send samples of previous work. All Blues Blast staff started out as volunteers like this. We have kept those with dedication on as staff writers afterwards.

If you are interested, please send an email to and tell us about your Blues background. A resume is always appreciated too.

Please be sure to include your phone number in your email reply.

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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8 

magnus berg cd imageMagnus Berg – In My Shoes

Drabant Music

10 songs time-42:40

Norwegian guitar slinger-singer Magnus Berg covers blues-rock, funk, R&B, soul and who knows what else all the while displaying his massive guitar skills. Performing largely as a power trio with occasional outside help, they get the job done. Bo Berg on bass and Tomas Pettersen on drums don’t serve as serviceable back up players, but are a strong part of the sounds attained here. Magnus composed all the songs with assistance on three. The music goes from a total aural onslaught to more mellow moments. Magnus handles the vocals with stylized coolness.

The appropriately titled “Intro” kicks in as a high intensity instrumental with a fusion vibe owing a bit to John McLaughlin and his ilk. Magnus pulls out some crystal clear stinging blues-rockin’ guitar on the funky “Not The One You Want” that includes a bit of falsetto soul singing. Magnus supplies his own background vocalizing on “Gone”. The bass playing of Bo Berg takes on an almost lead role with his strong playing here along with Magnus’s usual spot on guitar skills. Knut Hem’s dobro and Magnus’s electric slide segue into a Little Feat style way cool funky vibe on “Ain’t That Bad”.

Johnny Winter-ish electric slide as well as a bit of his grit in the vocals propels the blues-rock meets blues on the herky-jerky goodness of “Shitkickers”. Moody and beautiful guitar permeates “Moment” along with a heavy tom-tom beat. A depressing subject set over luscious music. Kristian Wentzel closes it out with a brief piano solo. The title tune is a slow simmering ballad. Bluesy guitar makes an appearance. Heavy Free-Bad Company distorted power chords kick off “You’re Mine”. Magnus conjures up a hearty growl for this one to compliment the powerful rockin’ guitar.

“Tell You Something” is a heavy riffing one with a bit of skittering guitar. “Make A Man A Fool” is a chugging boogie fueled gem that gets some rockabilly infused guitar playing.

If you’re in the market for guitar based blues-rock tempered with funk and soul that is well constructed and executed, boy have you come to the right place. Magnus knows when to rock out or mellow it down. This is a craftsman at work. Pop this puppy into your player and get out your air player and play until the cows come home.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

chicago carl snyder book image“Chicago” Carl Snyder – Ten Thousand And One Nights

A Piano Man’s Odyssey

Xlibris Publishing

148 pages

Like any musical genre, blues has its share of legendary and well-known artists who are frequently mentioned in any discussion about the past and the present. But, again like other genres, there have been thousands of musicians who toiled in relative obscurity over the years, supporting the “star” performers with solid backing, traveling thousands of miles for long stretches on the road, and often receiving minimal pay for their efforts. Yet, despite the sacrifices, musicians continue to pursue the siren call of their musical vision.

In this short work, Carl Snyder recounts his life’s journey over a career that spans more than five decades. Growing up with a piano in his home in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, Snyder’s father gave him lessons, hoping his son would develop into a prodigy. But Snyder had little interest in practicing Mozart, or anything else, at least until he heard records by Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry on the radio. He was playing trombone in the school band but would hurry home to try out new sounds on the piano, until his father forbid him from banging away on the Steinway, afraid his son would knock it out of tune.

Joining his first band at seventeen, Snyder played in different musical configurations through high school and into college, also expanding his musical universe by listening to Muddy Waters, Ray Charles, and Memphis Slim in addition to the more complex work of Charles Mingus and John Coltrane. But his career was interrupted when he received his college degree and moved to State University of Iowa for graduate courses. The money ran end and he ended up back home, working for a local paper. Hi life changed forever when he was hired for a writer’s position with Playboy Magazine, which took Snyder and his bride to Chicago. His Editor quickly realized the new hire’s passion for music and assigned Snyder to write reviews on recordings submitted to the magazine.

With his wife by his side, Snyder hits the clubs to take in the wealth of music that Chicago had to offer in the latter part of the 1960s, catching acts like Magic Sam, Bobby Blue Bland, and Otis Rush plus other sounds like Jimi Hendrix and Ravi Shankar. Snyder secures a keyboard and works his way into the local scene, first with a quartet billed as the Chicago T.N.T.’s. Soon he is playing gigs backing Otis Clay, Syl Johnson, and Johnny Dollar. After meeting Harold Ramis, the keyboardist ends up as part of the band at the legendary Second City Theatre.

From there, Snyder chronicles his career that moves to California for a stint at the ill-fated Earth magazine, then a return to Chicago for another stint with Playboy while starting reviving a musical partnership with singer Dan Noland, with Snyder playing guitar. Eventually the phone starts ringing as word spreads about Snyder’s talent. He works with guitarist Joe Kelley, Aron and Larry Burton, and Melvin Taylor before getting a call from Jimmy Johnson, leading to a lengthy stretch as a member of the band that traveled far and wide, with Snyder appearing on several of the guitarist’s releases on Delmark Records.

Snyder’s recollections are delivered in an easy-going manner that keeps readers engaged, and doesn’t spare some of the pitfalls, drudgery, and lack of recognition that is typical of a working musician’s life. Even though he goes on to work and record with other stellar Chicago blues artists like Lefty Dizz, Son Seals, Junior Wells, and Otis Rush, most blues fans would be stumped at the mention of his name. That will change once you wrap yourself up in his stories that guide you through his career highlights, bringing to life the people that have made his journey so special. Thanks to Carl Snyder for taking us back to a time when musical giants did indeed walk the streets of Chicago, and for his contributions to the art form.

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 – 4 of 8 

danielle nicole cd imageDanielle Nicole – Cry No More

Concord Records

14 Tracks/61:11

For her second release on the Concord label, Danielle Nicole makes a change, switching from Anders Osborne to Tony Braunagel as producer. Braunagel produced the last two Trampled Under Foot releases, so a strong working relationship already exists. And Danielle certainly sounds right at home throughout the disc, skillfully mixing blues, rock and soul with gospel seasoning. She composed nine of the songs, with Braunagel lending a helping hand on five tracks.

Danielle possesses a magnificent voice plus an understanding of the art of singing, avoiding the screaming, shouting style that is so prevalent these days. She prefers to dig into the lyrics, working to unveil the inherent emotions in each number. “Crawl” finds her mustering the courage to tell a no-good man that there is only one way he can regain her trust and love. The guitar interplay between brother Nick Schnebelen and Johnny Lee Schell creates a taut backdrop filled out by Mike Sedovic on organ, with the singer on bass and Braunagel on drums setting the propulsive rhythm. On the Bill Withers tune, “Hot Spell,” she plays a deep bass line, her voice sliding from a sexy purr to a tender declaration.

Mike Finnigan takes over the organ on the title track, a soulful lament with a touch of grit. “Bobby” is a quieter, passionate tune with Schell adding a different feel with a cigar box fiddle. On “Pusher Man,” Danielle emphatically asserts her intentions to keep her love interest addicted to her charms. Kelly Finnigan, Mike’s son & a member of the Monophonics, appears on two tracks. “Poison The Well” allows Danielle to utilize the vast dynamic range of her voice, then Finnegan joins the singer for a lusty duet on “Someday You Might Change Your Mind,” framed by some stellar playing by Schell.

The remaining tracks feature Danielle backed by some of the finest guitar pickers in the land. She forms a potent combination with Sonny Landreth on the gospel-tinged “I’m Going Home,” Landreth’s slide work creating an other-worldly atmosphere. Walter Trout contributes some fiery passages on “Burnin’ For You,” with Maxanne Lewis and Kudisan Kai on backing vocals. Next up, Kenny Wayne Shepherd matches Danielle’s heated performance on “Save Me”. The singer’s shares her sultry side on “Baby Eyes, “ with her regular guitarist, Brandon Miller, taking over. “Monster” Mike Welch’s playing seamlessly frames Danielle’s inconsolable narrative on lost love on “My Heart Remains”. He makes similar contributions on Prince’s “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore,” a stunning track with Danielle impressively channeling the style and sound of the First Lady of Soul, Aretha Franklin. The final song, Blind Willie Johnson’s “Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Crying,” features Luther Dickinson on slide and Schell once again on the cig fiddle.

There is plenty of heartache and pain pouring out of most of this disc. Danielle makes you feel every bit of the emotional weight while also conveying an underlying message of strength and resolve to persevere through all of the trials. It is another triumph for an artist who undoubtedly ranks in the upper tier of blues singers. 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!

 Videos Of The Week – Joel Paterson 

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Joel Paterson playing every Scotty Moore guitar solo from Elvis’ Sun Sessions. (Click image to watch!)

Joel Paterson with the Cash Box Kings – “Gotta Move Out to the Suburbs”. (Click image to watch!)

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Joel Paterson and Jonathan Doyle improvise some Chicago back porch blues in the key of D. (Click image to watch!)

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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

norman jackson band cd imageNorman Jackson Band – It’s The Drummer’s Fault!

Self-Release – 2015

11 tracks; 51 minutes

The Norman Jackson Band is based in Springfield MO but, as Norman tells us on the opening “Norman’s Blues” he is originally from the South side of Chicago. Rick Shortt started out as a 12 year-old with Norman as his mentor and his sax playing is now an integral part of the band’s sound as Norman handles guitar and vocals, his nephew Ron ‘Boogieman’ Brown is on drums and Danny Williams the bass player was a member of Norman’s church congregation. A close-knit unit, the band came third in the 2016 IBC’s, the band’s catchphrase is ‘Get Your Happy On!’ and their debut album is a blend of blues, soul and funk.

After “Norman’s Blues” acts as an intro to the band “Givin’ Up” starts as a slow blues and builds in intensity, mainly through Rick’s increasingly frantic sax work. Norman’s vocals fit well with the soulful “Man Of My House” with some strong sax work from Rick though he does get a little over-excited towards the end of his solo. “Healthy Woman” is a swinging blues with Norman proudly telling us about how his woman has “meat on her bones”; “All Alone” starts with some gentle guitar before developing into a strong instrumental feature for Rick’s sax work. Danny’s rumbling bass leads into “Grandmama Says” in which Norman recounts some of his grandma’s homespun philosophy over an extended funky tune. The shorter “Water Faucet” sticks to the funky side of things, the odd title explained by the chorus: “I’m not your water faucet, baby, you can’t turn me off and on”.

The band slows the pace for a soulful ballad “When You Came Into My Life”, Norman singing well of how love came into his life; with beautiful sax from the start and solid vocals this was the standout track for this reviewer. “Old Time Way” is an uptempo tune dominated by Rick’s sax and “Greene County Blues” a slower shuffle about the local prison. The album closes with “Snake In My House”, another slower number with classic lyrics about being suspicious about what might be going on at home when Norman is out at work – think “I Smell A Rat” as a template.

It is a positive thing that all the material here is original, albeit some of it is derivative. The instrumental side of the band is dominated by Rick’s sax work and it is not surprising that he is known as ‘the wild man of the sax’ as some of his work here does go over the top though when he remains focussed his playing is solid, as on “All Alone” and “When You Came Into My Life”. One suspects that this is a band to see live, as their IBC success would imply, rather than hear on disc but this album has some good moments.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

michael packer cd imageMichael Packer – I Am The Blues – My Story Vols 1 – 3 Complete

Self-Release 2017

Volume 2: 16 tracks; 43 minutes

Michael Packer was an ambassador for the blues, particularly in New York, and was at one time a contributor to Blues Blast. Michael’s earlier life involved alcohol and drug abuse, prison and homelessness and before he died in 2017 he recorded his story, in words and music, over the course of three albums. Volume 1 was reviewed for Blues Blast by Steve Jones back in 2014

and Volume 3 by Marty Gunther in 2017

However, Volume 2 somehow never reached Blues Blast but now the entire collection has been re-released in a triple CD set. This review therefore concentrates on Volume 2 which takes us from Michael’s release from Rikers Island prison to his recovery from addiction and time working with Honeyboy Edwards.

Michael’s narrations hold nothing back about how desperate his life was at this time and he does not hide his bad deeds, yet we empathize with his struggle and eventual return to a sober lifestyle, achieved mainly through putting as much effort into his music as he had done getting high, as recalled in the narration “Recovery”.

Musically most of this second volume features electric tunes with saxophone adding to the enjoyment. “The Letdown” is a very good starter, almost country-rock in feel, and “Bleeker Street” celebrates Michael’s move to concentrate entirely on his music after a failed relationship, the sax ecstatic in the solo – good stuff. Later on the disc there is a live version of “The Thrill Is Gone”, played after narrative reference to 9/11, and a live track from Honeyboy Edwards’ last show when Michael’s band was backing him.

Unfortunately there were no musician credits on the package sent for review and the sax player certainly deserves a mention on the tracks name-checked above. The overall package stands as a fine memorial to a man who overcame his issues mainly through the power of the music he played, hence his mantra – “I Am The Blues”.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.

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 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8 

jimmy smith band cd imageThe Jimmy Smith Band – T’Bird and a Redhead


CD: 11 Songs, 41:31 Minutes

Styles: Blues Covers, Ensemble Blues, 1950’s-Style Blues

Forget H.G. Wells’ imaginary invention: music is a real time machine. In a single note, a guitar riff, a poetic piano phrase, it hurtles you back to the era of your choice. In the case of the third album from California’s Jimmy Smith Band, T’Bird and a Redhead, the 1950’s are what listeners will (re)experience. It’s an ensemble blues collection, pure and simple, featuring ten covers and the original title track. On the back of the CD cover, a note reads, “All songs arranged by Jimmy Smith, Tim Cuny, Pierre Le Corre, Catlin Small, Skip Engle, [and] Julien Astruck.” Unfortunately for this reviewer, she can’t tell who plays what, as instrumentation credits are not precisely listed (not even on the band’s Facebook page). Vocally, Jimmy Smith is a craftsman, not an artiste. With a conversational tone and laid-back style, he gets the job done. As for the other musicians, they do a commendable job of combining 1950’s pep with 2000-teens’ edge. Key highlights are harmonica on several tracks, horns, and drums on the va-va-voom opener. Their fans will surely love it, and for those who’ve never heard them, it’s a fine introduction.

When building a resume, artists of all stripes like to point out the stars with whom they’ve collaborated. As for the Jimmy Smith Band, according to their webpage, Jimmy’s keyboards have partnered with a diverse group of musicians and bands, including Doyle Bramhall III, Steve Kimock, Luther Tucker, Charlie Musselwhite, Nick Gravenites, Norton Buffalo, Larry Graham, Robert Palmer, Guitar Shorty, Little Jimmy Reed, Kenny Neal, Freddie Roulette, Sonny Rhodes, and Tia Carroll. Jimmy’s bands have opened for such greats as Bonnie Raitt, Tower of Power, Little Feat, and the Average White Band. With a CV like this, it’s a wonder they’re not more well-known in the blues and blues-rock world, but that will change with time and effort.

The title track of this album lets the band’s songwriting skills jump to the musical forefront.

Track 06: “T’Bird and a Redhead” – “It’s how I like to roll,” sings Jimmy about two of his most favorite things. “One spends my money; the other one fills my soul!” One wonders which is which. This song’s as carefree and sassy as the ‘50’s is portrayed in nine out of ten movies. Every instrument featured on this song goes all out, and the result is beautifully balanced.

For those aficionados who only collect the purest of pure specimens, the rarest of blues-rock rarities, and the keenest of compact discs, the latest from the Jimmy Smith Band may or may not fit the bill. However, for those who just want to have fun and go back to the days of muscle cars and gorgeous ginger girls in polka-dotted tops, T’Bird and a Redhead will suit them to a T!

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 

johnny max band cd imageJohnny Max Band – Roadhouse Soul


CD: 10 Songs, 38:14 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, All Original Songs

The name of the latest release from Canada’s Johnny Max Band, Roadhouse Soul, is a misnomer. Soul typically features horns, harmony, and maybe a hot torch singer in the bargain. Every tune on this CD is quintessential electric blues rock – even the title track. Nevertheless, don’t fret. It’s more than good; it borders on the great. It’ll make people boogie whether they feel the urge or not. It’ll also make them laugh, cry, and think, because this band’s forte is songwriting. Their original material stands out amidst offerings full of covers, and that’s music to my ears. On their promotional information sheet, their vocals are described as “straightforward,” and that’s a most apropos adjective. Johnny Max and his crew don’t try any fancy tricks with vibrato or auto-tune. The way they impress is by not striving to impress: not showing off. They’re on the level.

As if this ensemble weren’t busy enough performing and touring, Max also finds time to host a radio show: “Sunday Morning Soul” on The HAZE FM, Canada’s only commercial web radio station, on Sunday mornings at 11AM and Wednesdays at 10PM. He also co-programs the CNE Bandshell BluesFest with Rico Ferrara, among other ventures. Publicist Michael Limnios once interviewed Johnny for the website BLUES.GR (Blues Greek). When asked about his love for this genre, Max explained, “Blues is a music that speaks to the common man. It tells stories that everyone one of us have known [sic] or have felt [sic] at one time. The music makes you feel so good. Makes you want to dance or get up and have a good time. A lot of people that I meet seem to think that Blues is sad and, yet, it is the complete opposite to me.”

Along with Johnny Max on lead vocals are Kevin Vienneau on guitars, mandolin and vocals; Jim Casson on drums and percussion; Rob Gusevs on piano and keyboards; Russ Boswell on bass, and Quisha Wint on background vocals.

The following three songs have humor, heart and heat, making their way to the top of the pack.

Track 01: “Couldn’t Happen to a Nicer Guy” – We’re not supposed to feel good when others suffer misfortune. In the case of this song’s subject, however, karma can be a real witch: “He shoots off his mouth like he’s Jesse James. He’s calling people into question, calling other people names. It’s all fun and games till you lose an eye. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy!” Kevin Vienneau’s guitar then laughs at him. If you’re fed up with certain folks, dance your blues away.

Track 02: “Blind Leading the Blind” – A wicked bass line and growling guitar highlight this lament about government. “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. It’s the same with politicians. You can’t make them think. You can clean them all up; they’ve still got the same old stink.” Professional expertise is supposed to count for a lot in today’s world, but when opinions matter more than facts, well – start singing the title, loudly and proudly.

Track 05: “I’m Broke” – Time for a peppy piano ballad! Who among us hasn’t grumbled this song’s name at least once in our lives? Reminiscent of Randy Newman in his heyday, it’s perfect for snapping your fingers, tapping your feet, or even whistling along to. Kevin Vienneau also performs a keen mandolin solo.

Johnny Max knows contemporary blues rock like the back of his hand, and also Roadhouse Soul!

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

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 Featured Interview – Joel Paterson 

joel paterson photo 1Once in a blue moon, a musician comes along who’s able to cross mediums effortlessly as he delivers a thoroughly modern touch to songs that existed decades before he was born or creates new tunes that fit seamlessly into what’s come before.

That’s the case for Joel Paterson, the guitar master best known to blues audiences for his work with The Cash Box Kings, a band that’s been delivering post-War jump and electric blues since being formed by harp player/guitarist Joe Nosek while a University of Wisconsin student in 2001.

The Kings cut their first album a year later and shot to international prominence in 2007 when they added the powerful voice of Oscar Wilson to handle lead vocals. The guitar seat, meanwhile, has been occupied by a revolving group of top Midwesterners, including Paterson, founding member Travis Koopman, Steve Freund and Billy Flynn with Joel a standout instrumentalist in the band in recent years.

Both Flynn and Paterson were involved in Royal Mint, the Kings’ latest Alligator Records release, which finished in second place behind label mate Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio on the Living Blues magazine radio charts for 2017, quite an honor considering that data is gathered from broadcasters around the globe.

But that’s only the tip of the musical iceberg where Paterson’s involved. While still with The Cash Box Kings in spirit and although his relationship with band mates remains strong, his work with the band has become less frequent because of the demand for his work in other areas.

“Way back in the early ‘80s, I was into punk rock like all the other weirdos,” recalls the Madison, Wis., native. “I was 13 years old, and I wanted to be a punk rock drummer. That’s all I knew about.”

Like many future musicians, Joel grew up in a home that included a large, diverse record collection. In this case, it belonged to his mother who was heavily into ‘60s folk and blues.

“I’d always pick out records and play them randomly,” Paterson recalls. “I’ve told this story before, but one day I put on The Best Of Lightnin’ Hopkins. It was a reissue of an album previously released as Autobiography In Blue with Lightnin’ alone playing acoustic guitar.

“I put it on and literally did a 180 with everything. ‘What is this,’ I wondered. From then on, I wanted to play guitar, not drums. I borrowed one from a friend of my mom’s and taught myself how to play just by listening to that record.”

Hopkins was playing everything in the key of E on that disc, making things easier to follow. And Paterson began expanded his skills by befriending a couple of local street musicians, who clued him in on guitarist techniques while they played for tips on the street around town.

“I play a lot of different styles today,” Joel says. “But when I got into the blues, I was always into the 1920s finger pickers. In my mind, that’s still the way I play, just in different incarnations.”

Paterson broadened his musical education when he began frequenting B-Side Records, a store that’s still going strong in Madison today. He learned to love the stylings of Blind Blake, the Piedmont-style guitarist who recorded for Paramount between 1926 and 1932 and whose sound resembled ragtime piano.

Then he moved on to Robert Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt, Tampa Red and Big Bill Broonzy, and he acquired as many copies of first-generation blues label Yazoo records as he could afford in the process.

“That’s still my favorite way to listen to the old ‘20s blues,” he says. “Today, people will hear me playing like Chet Atkins or (Elvis guitarist) Scotty Moore or Jazz Gillum finger style, and they’ll ask me: ‘How did you learn that? How can I do it too?’

“They want an easy answer. But I tell ‘em: ‘I’m still playing the same thumb pattern that Blind Blake or John Hurt did in the ‘20s — they should study that. And I’m not sure how far back that style goes because they didn’t start recording it until 1925.”

Paterson’s musical journey grew to include early Chicago artists Robert Nighthawk and Muddy Waters, then Freddie and B.B. King, Albert Collins and Magic Sam as well as a host of jazz, jump and country artists, including Charlie Christian, Tiny Grimes, Barney Kessel, Les Paul, Grant Green, Merle Travis and Chet Atkins – with Paterson copping chops at every stop along his way.

He began playing on the street himself while a UW student. “I started working with an upright bass player named Todd Cambio,” Joel recalls. “We made pretty good money playing country blues, especially in the fall after football games.”

And he got to experience many of the top bluesmen in Chicago, too. They frequently made the three-hour drive up from the big city to play the clubs that populated the college town.

joel paterson photo 3Paterson graduated Wisconsin with an art degree, but started playing blues professionally almost immediately. He jokes that his education has gone to waste. In truth, however, it’s come in pretty handy because he uses it to design album packaging for Ventrella Records, the label he’s owned and operated since releasing his solo country blues CD, Down In The Bottom, in 2001. Like the music he plays, many of his covers reinvigorate the feel of older days.

One of the most fluid, stylish pickers on the planet, Joel’s versatility is beyond compare — as evidenced by the elegant instrumental CD, Hi-Fi Christmas Guitar, he released to critical acclaim on Bloodshot Records last holiday season. It’s a collection of timeless tunes – everything from “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” to “Winter Wonderland” and “Silver Bells” — all delivered in a style that would fit comfortably in the 1950s or ‘60s.

“I spent almost a year working on it and four months recording it,” Joel says. “People have been bugging me forever to make a Christmas record, so I finally forced myself to do it. It was difficult. Working on Christmas tunes and playing gigs. I was working on them right up until the last second. It’s a lot of jazz and Western swing, and heavily influenced by Les Paul.”

Like Les did in the past, Joel overdubbed the lead guitar tracks with literally hundreds of variations that interlace brilliantly. Despite coming out fairly late in the season, the CD was so well received that he had a tough time keeping up with demand, and he plans to reintroduce it and put it out on vinyl for the first time when The Hawk starts blowing again off Lake Michigan next fall.

About five months prior to releasing the Christmas album, he produced the One Room Blues CD for Airway Records, which presented Kings bandmate Wilson in a soul-blues format for the first time despite having loved it from childhood, having grown up surrounded by it on Chicago’s South Side.

“That turned out good – that was a lot of fun,” Joel says. “It was a loose thing. I arranged the music, we had one rehearsal and I went in there and recorded it, and we knocked it out in a couple of days.”

Despite the short turn-around, it received rave reviews.

Depending on the evening, you might find Paterson playing straight-ahead ‘20s acoustic blues, but you’ll run across him in the top jazz joints in the Windy City, too. Look elsewhere, and there he’ll be, playing honky-tonk, jump, rockabilly, country or Western swing, too. Look again and he’ll even be playing pedal steel.

His history as a sessions musician includes work with Pokey LaFarge, country artists The Cactus Blossoms, rockabilly and roots star JD McPherson, mod-pop mavericks The Insomniacs, roots artist Rachel Ries, Canadian acoustic blues guitarist Steve Dawson, Milwaukee blues harp legend Jim Liban and hot jazz keyboard player Carl Sonny Leyland, among others.

He and Wilson work together whenever Oscar’s in town. “I still play with him whenever I can,” Joel says. “I have him in my jazz band sometimes. I have him in my blues band. We do a whole different side of Oscar that some people might not hear.”

A traditional bluesman at heart, Joel does admit that he frequently works in other areas. “I’m just doing what I do, which is playing in a zillion bands around Chicago and paying my rent,” he says.

As hectic as it might be and as impossible as it might be to others, it’s a schedule he’s been maintaining for years. He works steadily with at least four different bands, all delivering distinctly different brands of music, in addition to appearing as a guest with other acts around town. His own gigs feature a core group of musicians who switch hats as deftly as he does. It’s a continuing challenge because they’re such a talented group, they’re often booked to work elsewhere.

“It would be fun to put them all together into one supergroup,” Paterson says. “But the economics of it makes it impossible. All bands in Chicago have to be kinda small to make a living.”

One ensemble, The Modern Sounds, tries to emulate the classic blues, swing and rockabilly feel of Los Angeles-based Modern Records – hence the name. Founded by Saul, Jules and Joe Bihari in 1945 and in operation into the ‘60s, its lineup included Etta James, Joe Houston and Ike and Tina Turner. Paterson teams with Beau Sample on upright bass and Alex Hall on drums in a trio format to deliver a big sound that includes three-piece harmonies. Both men are also involved with Joel’s label.

“That’s a lot of fun for me because we can go into any situation and figure out what to do for each occasion depending on the club or the audience,” Paterson says. “We can play the blues, swing or jazz. When we back up Oscar Wilson, we can do a lot of old rhythm-‘n’-blues. We’re like the session guys who can kinda fit in with anybody.”

Or you might find him working with The Western Elstons, playing honkytonk, rock and country on guitar and pedal steel, accompanied by bassist Casey McDonaugh and guitarist/vocalist Scott Ligon. “They’re an amazing band to play with,” he says. “They’re amazing harmony singers, just like the Everly Brothers or the Lehman Brothers. So they just sing their songs and I try to stay out of their way, playing guitar licks and solos.”

If their names are familiar, they should be. Paterson works with them when they’re not touring with NRBQ, a band that’s traveled the world for five decades, fusing everything from pop to jazz to blues and Tin Pan Alley and that’s known for its spontaneous live performances.

joel paterson photo 3“I bought a junker pedal steel in a music store about 10 years ago, maybe more,” Joel says. “I said: ‘What the hell is this thing?’ I didn’t know the first thing about it, but really got into it. It’s the kind of instrument you really have to become obsessed with for about five years before you can do anything on it.”

He doesn’t play it often, but does include it on his recordings.

“A lot of the gigs I play are with Devil In A Woodpile, which plays a lot of ragtime,” Paterson continues. “I’ve been with that band on and off for about 15 years. We play every Thursday at The Hideout (in the River North neighborhood) with Beau and Rick Sherry, who plays harmonica and washboard. I play acoustic National metal-body guitar. We play all ‘20s and ‘30s blues. That’s where I get that out of my system – the fingerpicking stuff, Washboard Sam, Robert Johnson and Blind Blake.”

Other nights, Paterson’s at the Green Mill in Uptown. Opened in the early 1900s as a roadhouse and restaurant, its checkered history includes being both a meeting place for Al Capone and other gangsters and a cabaret that once was home to Sophie Tucker, Eddie Cantor and Charlie Chaplin. It’s also been Chicago’s top jazz venue for the better part of the past century.

“The Green Mill is probably my favorite room to play because it hasn’t changed much since the 1940s,” Joel says. “When you play there, you really feel like you’re back in the day.”

It’s there that he works in an organ trio with Chris Foreman, a Chicago keyboard institution, and Hall or Mike Schick on drums. “We play behind the bar every Sunday,” Joel says. “That’s where the original stage used to be.

“Chris loves Jimmy McGriff, so we play a lot of his 1960s blues and soul/jazz. It’s a real education for me. He’s amazing to try and keep up with. That gig doesn’t kick off until 11 p.m., so it’s a really different, late-night crowd. All the night owls and people who work in bars come out to hear us.

“It’s great for me because I get to play anything from B.B. and Freddie to Bill Jennings and Charlie Christian to Kenny Burrell and Grant Green – all great guitar players. That’s a dream come true because Foreman makes that possible.”

And there are frequent spinoffs of all four groups depending on Joel’s bookings, including one with Ligon and McDonaugh that plays old-school soul, more work with Liban, who was the first bandleader to hire Paterson for a paying gig in the ‘90s, and other work as The Joel Paterson Trio, a jazz ensemble.

“I just do whatever makes sense,” he says, “which includes at the Honky Tonk BBQ (at 18th and Racine), where I play a dinner set every month as a duo. Sometimes it’s me and Oscar, other times me and Beau or someone else. It keeps things interesting.”

Because of his schedule, Paterson doesn’t get to hear other Windy City guitarists very often, but he has great respect for several others, including jazz master Andy Brown and Israeli-born, Chicago-based jazz and bluesman Guy King, who recently hired him for a Green Mill gig.

“That was a lot of fun,” Joel says. “Normally, we guitar players don’t get to play together because of budgets. He’s a guy I really love because he mixes blues and jazz in a way that’s really hard to pull off – and he can sing. He also comes out to my Sunday gigs sometimes and sits in. It’s always a pleasure. He’s very enthusiastic, and he loves music.”

But that’s not all!

Paterson’s constantly constructing new musical rosters depending on the gig. “What I enjoy doing is, whenever I’m hired for a festival or show, is to figure out the best lineup – new bands than never existed before. It keeps things fresh, especially when you put people together who’ve never met before. There are so many great musicians out there right now and it’s hard to keep track of peoples’ schedules these days, making it a real challenge.”

With all that on his plate in Chicago, Paterson doesn’t venture out of the Windy City very often. “That’s kinda how I like it,” he admits. “I like to go out for little trips and little festivals. But I don’t know how people do that and travel all the time. I don’t have the connections to do it, either, because I’ve been working so long just around town.

“I love going to Europe for a week or so. But if you want to keep your regular gigs going, you can’t leave town much because you lose them to other musicians.

joel paterson photo 4“Back in the day, I would’ve been just a guitar player,” he points out. “Computers have not made our lives easier because, now, we have to do everything. Now, I have to design a website, I have to be my own booking agent, my own graphic designer and more.”

How does he keep everything straight? Email tag mostly, Joel says, “which is one of the least fun things about the music business these days. Every day — when you think you’re going to practice or learn new songs for your gig tonight — you realize you’ve spent the whole day playing email tag.

“Computers are a love-hate thing for all of us. It’s amazing that we can speak to people all over the world and meet people on Facebook or wherever. But there are times when it bogs you down trying to keep up with it.

“There are times when I just want to disappear for a week and play guitar. But after I do, I feel guilty I did it! Man, I can’t believe I feel guilty about practicing! That’s what I was supposed to be doing!”

When asked if he had any suggestions for younger guitarists, Paterson referenced the internet once more. “There’s a lot of great players out there,” he says. “I’ve seen ‘em all over Instagram, Facebook and other places.

“They’re amazing technically and seem to be pleasing people while sitting in their rooms playing a mile a minute. It makes me think: ‘Jeez, how do these people learn this stuff?’ because I didn’t do any of that when I was that young.

“But I don’t hear ‘em playing any songs. Without getting into the older styles, they’re not getting into the soul of it. That’s the one thing that seems to be missing these days in a world where there’s so much information available on the internet. There aren’t very many (young guitarists) who are digging in to the history of the music and who are really understanding what they’re playing.

“That’s very important with the blues,” Joel says, “because the blues is not difficult technically to understand. It gets its power is from the way you communicate emotion and dynamics. It comes through tone and understanding.”

Not incessant flurries of notes that flow like a torrent across the net nowadays.

If you’re going to play blues, you have to respect its history, Paterson insists. “It goes wa-a-ay back. And it’s far more than people playing guitar licks in videos on the computer. I work on my technique all the time. It never ends. And I’d rather hear more songs rather than licks.

“But,” he adds with a chuckle, “I’m probably more guilty of that than anyone else.”

One listen to Paterson in action, however, shows beyond a shadow of doubt that that’s untrue. He all class with not a shred of shredding.

You can learn more about Joel, check out some of his videos or pick up his music by visiting his website.

Check out Joel’s website at:

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

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The St. Louis Blues Society – St. Louis MO

The St. Louis Blues Society has been busy. The Society’s fourth annual compilation of original songs by St. Louis artists, 17 IN 17, has won rave reviews. You can read the story here. During February for Black History Month the St. Louis Blues Society and KDHX are sponsoring a three session community dialogue on “Race and the Blues in St. Louis” designed to cultivate understanding about race relations as it pertains to blues music, its legacy and future. You can read about the first session The Past: Stigma of the Blues here or stream it from KDHX.

Blues Society members love to jam. In St. Louis you can jam with them all week long: Sunday- 4-8pm Hammerstones in Soulard with the Voodoo Blues Band, Monday –9-1am Broadway Oyster Bar with the Soulard Blues Band, Tuesday – 10-1am Venice Café with Jeremy Segel-Moss (Chair STLBS), Wednesday- 7:30-11pm Highway 61 Roadhouse, Webster Groves, Thursday- 6-8pm, National Blues Museum Legends Room Stage.

The Charlotte Blues Society – Charlotte, NC

The Charlotte Blues Society announces its March Blues Bash, featuring Blues deLuxe, on 4 March, at the Rabbit Hole, 1801 Commonwealth Ave., Charlotte, NC 28205. Doors at 7:00, show at 8:00, followed by an open blues jam. If you missed Heather Gillis, who played a hot 2-hour set on 11 February, don’t miss this one!

CBS also announces its April Blues Bash, 1 April (no April fool’s joke here) featuring Joseph Michael Mahfoud, also at the Rabbit Hole, 7:00 doors, 8:00 show, with jam to follow.

As always, both shows are free to card-carrying members, only $5 for others. We are asking for donations of canned food or household paper products to benefit Loaves and Fishes. Hope to see you there!

Sacramento Blues Society – Sacramento, CA

Sacramento Blues Society is proud to present the legendary Johnny Rawls, Nominee for 2018 Soul Blues Male Artist and Soul Blues Album of the Year for “Waiting for the Train”, on Sunday, March 25, 2018, Goldfield’s Trading Post, 1630 J Street, Sacramento.

Doors open 3:30 p.m. ~ Show: 4 to 7 pm. Purchase tickets Advance Online: $29 Members, $34 Public at or at the Door: $30 Members, $35 Public.

The Great Northern Blues Society – Wausau, WI

The Great Northern Blues Society of Wausau, WI (GNBS) is Proud to announce the lineup for our 19th Annual Blues Café fundraiser to be held at the Historically Registered Rothschild Pavilion (near Wausau, WI) on 3/10/18.

The stellar Lineup will include Big N’ Tasty Blues Band, The Norman Jackson Band, Southern Avenue, Victor Wainwright & the Train, and The Jeremiah Johnson Band. Cathy Grier will be playing acoustic sets near the fireplace between main stage acts. Doors open at noon, and Music will start at 1:00PM and continue non-stop until 11:00PM. Chairs, Food, and Cold Beverages will be available on-site. Special Hotel Rates available at the nearby Stoney Creek Inn utilizing the Code: “BLUES Cafe”. Limited supply of rooms available so make your reservation now.

Please come, sit by the huge stone fireplace, with a beverage of choice in hand, and join us for 10 hours of non-stop glorious Blues Music on 3/10/18. Artist Biographies, directions, and Tickets are available on our Website at –

Crossroads Blues Society – Rockford, IL

Monthly shows at the Hope and Anchor in Loves Park, IL are on the second Saturday of the month. They are from 8:00 to 11:30 PM and there is a $5 Cover Charge. Scheduled shows: March 10 – John Primer, April 14 – Chicago Wind featuring Matthew Skoller and Dietra Farr, May 12 – Cash Box Kings.

The Lyran Society in downtown Rockford hosts first and third Friday blues along with a fish fry. No cover, shows 7 to 10 pm. Scheduled shows: March 2 – Olivia Dvorak Band, March 17 – Ivy Ford Band, April 6 – Bobby Messano.

Contact Steve Jones at for more info on any of these events or go to

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.

Blue Monday Schedule: February 26 – The Good, The Bad and The Blues. For more information visit

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

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