Issue 13-2 January 10 2019

Cover photo © 2018 Bob Kieser

 In This Issue 

Don Wilcock has our feature interview with Studebaker John. We have 6 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Bloodest Saxophone, Kat Danser, The Society Of The Angelic Potheads, Dry Johnson, Eric Bibb and Dane Phillip Smith.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6 

bloodest saxaphone cd imageBloodest Saxophone – Texas Queens 5

Vizztone Label Group/Dialtone Records

12 tracks

Sexy. Dirty. Gritty. Sublime. Jumpin. And that’s just the Bloodest Saxophone work here. The vocals are even cooler.

Bloodest Saxophone is a group of 20 year veteran horn players and band from Japan. They have 11 prior recordings of their own under their belts. They have worked with the likes of Big Jay McNeely and Jewel Brown. Their sound is retro- throwbacks to that big sax sound of the 1940’s and 50’s. They are Koda “Young Corn” Shintaro on tenor, Coh “Colonel Sanders” on trombone, Osikawa Yukimasa on baritone, Shuji “Apple Juice” on guitar, The TAKEO “Little Tokyoon upright bass, and Kiminori “Dog Boy” on drums and congas. Manager Yoshinari “Kawathomas” Kawato manages these guys and brought them to Austin; Texas’ East Side Festival to play.

The Texas Queens 5 are Houston’s Diunna Greenleaf, Lauren Cervantes and Angela Miller from Austin’s Soul Supporters, Jai Malano from Austin and Crystal Thomas from Shreveport, LA (not Texas). They bring their blues, gospel, R&B, and soul from their own work into this amalgamation of great, great music.

Miller and Cervantes do all the backing vocals. Nick Connolly is the keys man. Kaz Kaznoff and Johnny Moeller also make some guest spots.

Big Maybelle first recorded “I’ve Got a Feeling” opens things and Diunna Greenlead provides some powerful vocals to set the hook for the listener with this fine CD. Greenleaf and the band turn the heat up a notch with a slightly faster tempo and make tis 1954 classic their own. Nice sax work too. That comment is pretty much for every song. Willie Dixon’s “I Just want to Make Love to You” is sung by all 5 of the ladies who aptly strut their stuff. Crystal Thomas takes her turn with “Losing Battle,” a 1962 Johnny Adams cut. Thomas played trombone for Johnny Taylor and sings southern soul with her own brand of class and sass. Rufus Thomas’ 1965 “Walking the Dog” is next with Jai Malano. She sings with power and authority, more than holding her own behind the horns and guitar. “Pork Chop Chick” is a Shintaro original and features Kaz helping out on the tenor sax and Moeller on guitar. A strutting and jumping instrumental with slick guitar and just a beautiful jump blues sound. The tenor work by both players is impeccably cool. “Run Joe” is a Joe Willoughby tune first done in 1950 by Louis Jordan. Lauren Cervantes gives it a sort of calypso soul sort of sound and the tenor is killer along with her swinging singing.

Milano returns for “It’s Your Voodoo Working,” the 1961 Charles Sheffield side that Milano and Bloodest nail. Guitar and sax growl and grab the listener after being lured in for the kill by Milano. Roscoe Robinson’s “Don’t Move Me No More” features Crystal Thomas in this uptempo version of the 1968 soul/funk hit. Slow powerful sounds come from the band and Angela Miller in “Don’t Hit Me No More.” While the topic is not so cool in today’s mindset let alone , the performance is emotional. Originally by Mabel John in 1967 and written by

Jay Mayo “Ink” Williams, this is a great side covered by some great musicians. “I Done Done It” is a 1954 Amos Milburn And His Aladdin Chickenshackers single with Milano on vocals and some high energy stuff by the band- sweet stuff! Lucky Millinder And His Orchestra first performed “The Grape Vine,” written by Carl Erskine. Cervantes delivers a jumping performance as the band swings and performs with abandon. “Cockroach Run” also has Kaz on tenor and he blows his brains out in this cool instrumental. Nice guitar work, too, here. Lafayette Thomas’ cut get a cool and fine cover to conclude this spectacular album.

Powerhouse vocals. Throwback horns and guitar. Uptempo coolness. Slow sublime-ness. I loved every cut. These boys from Japan and ladies from the Texas area really put on a show. If you like soul, R&B and jump blues then look no further. This is a killer album!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 6 

kat danser cd imageKat Danser – Goin’ Gone

Black Hen Music

10 tracks; 40 minutes

For Edmonton, Canada-based Kat Danser’s 5th album, she’s put together a very listenable collection of original tunes that encompass a wide swath of country blues and roots styles. With engaging songs and top-flight performances by a stellar group of musicians, the album has the appeal of a familiar old, comfortable sweater that that just makes you feel good… real good!

Danser is a three-time nominee for a Western Canadian Music Award; a winner of the Ambassador of the Blues Award from the Blues Underground Network; and winner of a Best Independent Album prize from the International Blues Competition Best Independent Blues, to name just a few of her accolades. With a rich contralto somewhat reminiscent of a Nina Simone, Tracy Chapman or Joan Armatrading, Danser’s distinctive voice is immediately identifiable and easily draws you into her evocative musical storytelling.

An award-winning touring artist, Danser has performed at numerous festivals, including the Canadian Women in Blues Festival, Calgary International Blues Festival, Winnipeg Folk Festival, Edmonton Folk Music Festival, Calgary Folk Festival, Vancouver Folk Festival, Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival, Folk on the Rocks Festival in Yellowknife, Regina Folk Festival, Saskatoon Blues Festival, Lethbridge Jazz Festival, Vancouver Island MusicFest, Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival, Harmony Bazaar Festival, Mountainview Music Festival, Islands Music Festival, and the Winter Roots & Blues Festival, to name a few.

Hardly your garden-variety blues musician, Danser has been an educator at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta for nearly a decade, and holds a Ph.D. in Musicology and Ethnomusicology. Research for her thesis took her to many southern states, where she immersed herself in both the music and the culture that spawned it. She clearly knows a great deal about the music styles she loves, and it shows in both her songwriting and her performances. A visit to YouTube will turn up dozens of performance videos, with Danser accompanying herself on acoustic or electric guitar, and typically backed by some very talented musicians; it’ll be well worth your time.

Eight of the 10 songs on this collection are originals, and the two covers – Sam McGhee’s “Chevrolet Car” and Fred MacDowell’s “Train I Ride” – have been reinterpreted to make them feel right at home with Danser’s unique musical aesthetic. In addition to having some wonderful songs and terrific individual performances, Goin’ Gone also benefits from excellent production and mixing, allowing the instrumentation to really serve the songs, and support Danser’s voice and her unique lyricism.

Album personnel include Danser on vocals and guitar; Steve Dawson on guitar and pedal steel; Jeremy Holmes on bass and mandolin; Gary Craig on drums; Jim Hoke on harmonica and saxophone; and Matt Combs on fiddle and mandolin. The album was expertly produced by Dawson, who also produced Danser’s previous effort, 2013’s Baptized By Mud.

The opening track, “Goin’ Gone,” is an up-tempo “road” song that chugs along at a nice, leisurely pace, accentuated by some tasteful slide rhythm, some chicken-picking from Steve Dawson, and Jim Hoke’s soulful harmonica playing.

The solid backbeat of “Voodoo Groove” complements the swampy feel of the tremolo guitar and pulsing bass, while Danser fleshes-out her characters with some nice lyrical twists. Once again, Hoke and Dawson bring some tasty harmonica and guitar, respectively, to perfectly season this gumbo.

The electric slide that propels “Memphis, Tennessee” evokes Bonnie Raitt and Lowell George, but the lyrics and arrangement are definitely Danser’s own.

Sam McGhee’s “Chevrolet Car” is a rootsy foot-stomper, with an almost bluegrass feel, thanks to a chunky, rhythmic strum and Matt Combs’ distinctive fiddle work.

“Kansas City Blues” is a minor blues, a lamentation of a “broke, worn and tired Kansas City,” with a tremolo-infused rhythm guitar accentuated by Dawson’s weepy pedal steel licks.

Other notable tracks include the melancholy yearning of “My Town,” and the call-to-action of “Light the Flame,” a commentary on the current state of politics both in the U.S. and around the globe.

All in all, Goin’ Gone is a collection of solid tunes, crisp arrangements, and wonderful performances, and still sounds fresh after repeated listening. Her website also has a downloadable PDF with all of the album notes and even song lyrics… a nice touch in for us info junkies, especially this age of streaming and digital downloads.

Bottom line? If you’re a fan of warm, soulful roots and Americana music played with a distinctive personality, you owe it to yourself to check out Danser’s latest effort… and while you’re at it, you might want to give a listen to her other CDs, as well! It’s all good!

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

 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 6 

angelic potheads cd imageThe Society Of The Angelic Potheads – Behind 12 Bars

self release

14 songs time – 54:07

The Society Of The Angelic Potheads, a somewhat rag-tag U.K. outfit, puts out music that encompasses anything from blues, punk influences and what can pass for their version of drinking songs. Guitars, bass, minimal synth, harmonica and bare bones percussion underscore the rather hap hazard and boozy vocals. They execute eleven self-penned songs along with three covers. Everything here is performed in a loose fashion. They cover unusual topics with off-the-wall lyrics.

“3 Fingers” bemoans the effects of too much boozing. It’s a modern day juke joint blues. Billy Mac’s soulful vocal, biting electric guitar, harmonics and bare bones drums create an old timey vibe. Another Billy Mac vocal, acoustic and electric guitars, harmonica conjure up a laconic blues in “Ain’t Going To Let It Happen”. “Don’t Mean Nothing” is a bit of a repetitive down home fluff. Now it’s as the booze is taking effect as Ed Tokerite leads a quick-fire off the wall Cockney sing-along on “Born Too Late”. Ed kicks in with more Cockney goofiness in “Harrietta”, a sing along ditty with synth horns. Billy Mac continues the boozy goofiness on “Me And My Horse”. Bet ya never heard a song about a girl finding her boyfriend’s belly button fluff. Try the poppy “Stella” on for size.

W.J. Dodd gets in touch with his “Feminine Side” in a toe tapper about cross-dressing- “My baby’s still my baby, but now I’m her bitch”. All righty then. The band itself concedes that they don’t know themselves what the punkish “Flip Flap Flop” is about. In any case it’s a toe tapper.

The narrator of “Little Willy” ponders about the sad state of his member-“Nothing’s coming up at the moment.” And now sports fans, here is some ginzo blues. “Ham And Eggs” pits distorted guitar and synthesizer noises against each other. The Allman Bros.’ “Midnight Rider” gets the Pothead treatment with the riff intact along with cutting electric guitar over that pesky synth. Billy Mac’s vocals are loose here.

How’s this for an unusual choice for a cover-The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues”. Their works well in the Pothead style. They offer up a rather conventional take on “Rock Me Baby”, showing that hey have blues cred when they are so compelled. The guitar and harmonica are spot on.

This motley crew of British geezers present a diverse, loose and loopy program of music. Blues, punk, drinking songs and who knows what else are all jumbled together to create an interesting and at times befuddling experience.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 6 

dry johnson cd imageDry Johnson – Long Live Them Blues Vol. 1

Connor Ray Music

11 tracks

Mike Zito’s big time rhythm section for the last two years have been bass player Terry Dry and drummer Matthew Robert Johnson. Zito plays guitar here on their first album as Dry Johnson and sings a bit in their support. Featuring a host of other talent, this CD is a powerful start for what should become the Dry Johnson era of recordings. Originally the duo met in Fargo, ND, in 1998 and have played together on and off for 20 years. Zito met them in St. Lois somewhere around 2002 when opening for Hadden Sayers. Dry and Johnson have a tight sound and are a great backline and musicians in general.

The first track is a DJ intro. Track two begins the music with “Daddy’s Got A Cadillac,” a fine cut featuring Zito performing a duo with Houston chanteuse Annika Chambers. Both Zito and Dry play guitar and it’s a driving song with impassioned vocal work. It is a great hook to get you started. “Long Live Them Blues” is next, with Might Orq on guitar , Steve Krase on harp and Miss Trudy Lynn on vocals. The resonator resonates sweetly, the harp blows greasily and Lynn offers up some tasty vocals.

“Hit The Highway” follows with John Del Toro Richardson on vocals and guitar. This is the only cover, a Johnny “Guitar Watson cut. He sings with guts and emotion and plays some restrained beautiful guitar. Well done! Orq returns and plays guitar on “Drunk Girl With A Tambourine.” He plays some pretty licks and Snit sings with a nasal tone appropriate for the tune and witty approach. A mid-tempo swing tune, it’s a fun number. Orq then plays and sings on “Too Many Hipsters,” a Texas blues rocker with a driving beat and a big guitar sound. Snit does what’s called an old man rant to close out the tune where he complains about Hipsters messing up the traffic patterns.

“Juke Joint” swings nicely with Dry on lead vocals and Orq and James Wilhite on guitar. There’s some well done steel and electric guitar here that adds to the Texas ambience. It is a great dance number that swings and grooves nicely. Dry joins Wilhite on guitar as Wilhite sings for “ I Walk Alone,” a somber and dark song with real grit. Wilhites baritone testifies deeply and his guitar adds to the mood and mix. “Trashy Women and Cheap Guitars” features Zito and Dry on guitar and Dry once again fronting the band. The lyrics are fun and will be a crowds pleaser in this Texas country blues rocker. The slide is out and the guitar pedals are pumping to make this sound like it should.

The instrumental “Fried Chicken” features Zito on guitar with a big, beautiful ringing tone and fancy finger picking. Shouts (apparently by Dry) of “Fried Chicken,” “Turnip Greens,” and “Corn Bread” add to the overall “ambiance.” The album closes with “Little Bird” and Dry filling all the parts (vocals and guitars). He does a nice job with this somber Texas blues ballad.

I loved the album from start to finish. It’s got a sweet variety of tunes, a big Texas sound, great musicianship by the regulars and guests and makes for a great listen. I enjoyed this one over an over again in getting ready to review it and I am sure it will get many a listen more as time passes. I highly recommend this one!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6 

eric bibb cd imageEric Bibb – Global Griot

Stony Plain Records

2 discs, 13 and 11 tracks

I remember the first time I saw and heard Eric Bibb. His lanky stature and the grace and ease of his playing and singing made his performance a bit surreal. The music emanated from his mouth and fingers with such naturalness that it impressed me greatly. Son of a folk singer and political activist (and unafraid to take a stand himself), Bibb offers up a pair of CDs that tie to the West African storytelling method (griot) and features artists and production support from around the globe. Having grown up in a home where Bob Dylan , Odetta and Pete Seeger were routine visitors and with Paul Robeson as his godfather and a musical family, it is no wonder Eric took so well to music.

After attending New York’s High School of Music and Art, Bibb gave up a formal education at New York’s Ivy League Columbia University in 1970 for Paris and learning blues guitar under Mickey Baker. He later moved to Sweden and toured the blues scene in Europe writing and playing his own songs all over Europe. His career spans five decades and he has been nominated for two Grammy Awards and many Blues Music Awards.

Noted World Music star Habib Koete’and noted West Africa Musician Solo Cissokho who plays the 22 stringed kora appear here along with his long time friend Harrison Kennedy who sings on four tracks.

Crossroads’ fans will know that griot is an oral musical history tradition in West Africa where the tribal and family histories are set to music and passed down orally. Rap music is an off shoot of this tradition. Many think rap sprang from urban music on the East and West Coasts of the US; in reality, it has tie back for centuries to West African tradition, Bibb thinks the words “Global Griots” aptly describe he and his friends and their musical styles and approaches.

Bibb begins with “Gathering of the Tribes,” with Bibb on vocals and guitar, Cissokho on African vocals and kora and a griot choir trio backing them. The kora is delightful and Solo’s chants add to the mood. It’s a great start. “Whereza Money At” features Kuku Ansong on trumpet and Owura Sax on tenor as the horn section on this song about oil money exploiting the poor peoples. Christer Bothe’n plays the six string harp (donso n’goni, also known as the hunter’s harp) and the vocals with Bibband drummer Kwame Yebosh and bassist Glen Scott are cool.

Following that is “Human River,” a song about people who tried to conquer cities and nations from Capone and Hitler to Trump but the might human river called love is the ultimate winner. There is some nice slide by Steffan Astner here, in this slow and flowing piece. Bibb’s wife Ulrika backs him on vocals, too. In “What’s He Gonna Say Today” Bibb compares the talk of Trump to that of the cartoon Family Guy.Paris Renita backs Bibb on vocals as Bibb sings of the mess in the White House. “Brazos River Blues” has Bibb singing about a more violent time as he plays 6-string banjo and baritone guitar and Kennedy sings with him. Michael Jerome Browne plays some good harp here in this minimalistic tune.

Koite’ and Bibb sing and play guitar on “We Don’t Care.” A seven person griot choir also chimes in on the choruses on this song that describes how we don’t care about the effects on the environment as we live lives of excess. “Black, Brown and White” is a Big Bill Broonzy tune where Kennedy again helps on vocals. The song tells us it alright to be white and brown can stay around but black has to get back. Kennedy also sings on “Listen For The Spirit,” where Bibb sings we should listen for the spirit in the music to soothe our souls and guide us home. Kennedy again sings with his edgy style and Mats Oberg plays some harp to fills.

Next is “Hoist Up The Banner,” where Bibb backed by his wife sing about hosing the banner of love, the flag even flag-wavers should hold up. Koite’ returns for “Mami Wata/Sebastian’s Tune.” The choir returns in this uplifting tune to the female water spirit Mami Wata. “Send Me Your Jesus” is a thoughtful piece about brotherhood and being like Jesus. “A Room for You” feature Drissa Dembele on balafon, an African xylophone and Bibb on guitar. Mostly instrumental, Bibb and his wife sing the latter third of the cut that tells the listener that there is always a room for you in their house. “Remember Family” closes the first CD. The song hearkens to family should always in our thoughts no matter where they are. Added vocalists and Kahanga “Master Vumbi” Dekula on guitar do a nice job as does Ale Moller on trumpet.

The haunting “Race & Equality” starts the second CD. A beautiful beat and windswept musical sounds glide along as Bibb sings about the unity of man. Baritone sax by Ed Epstein adds to the mix. “Grateful” is in a sort of calypso style where Bibb sings about how he is thankful for his woman while playing banjo. Next is “All Because,” a pretty ballad of friendship. Ulrika Bibb does some nice backing vocals here and there is some interesting kora, guitar and baritone guitar, too.

Solo Cissokho plays kora on “Spirit Day,” an excellent instrumental interplay with the guitar and kora. An occasional chant by Solo pops in for effect, but the beautiful finger picking on 12-srring resonator and kora here is amazing. “Let God” tells us to let God do what we can’t do and understand we are all one, a wonderful sentiment sung to a peppy and moving beat. In “Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream” Bibb paints a picture of a world without war. A lilting melody soothes the listener and the lyrics match up well. 12-string guitar and backing vocals again by Ulrika are nice touches. The instrumental “Picture A New World” carries that idea from the last one and instrumentally builds into a feeling of unity. Bibb on guitar, Solo on kora and Olli Haavisto on pedal steel make an interesting mix.

Linda Tillery is featured on “New Friends,” a song that asks our leaders to join together and to respect everyone equally. Tillery sings with emotion and Bibb and company fill in equally well. “Mole In The Ground” is a song about wanting to be a mole in the ground so he could take mountains down. Bibb and Ken Boothe sing about how simple things in nature have a position of importance. The shared vocal lead and call and response is well done. “Michael Row The Boat Ashore’ is a well known slave tune first noted during the Civil War.

Featuring a scratchy sound like an old recording to start, Bibb and company break into a sweet rendition of this classic. Things conclude with “Needed Time” and some interesting string picking and interplay. A long intro and minimal harmonizing vocals basically repeating “Right Now is the Needed Time’ sends us off well. The kora and other strings blend and play off each other and make for a great conclusion.

This double CD will certainly garner recognition and award mention in the acoustic side of the blues award worlds. It is a beautiful and moving tribute to harmony and peace in a world where we are all brothers and sisters, This is a fine and touching set of tunes played with artistry and restraint. Words cannot express how much this is a fantastic album, so suffice it to say it just needs to be heard by everyone.

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 6 

dane phillip smith cd imageDane Phillip Smith – Looks Like Down to Me


CD: 10 Songs, 42:09 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Texas Blues, All Original Songs

Horror icon Stephen King wrote five novels before hitting it big with Carrie. The lesson here is threefold: a) Never give up; b) A masterpiece may lie just around the corner, and c) If you’ve got the dream, the drive, and the talent, you’re going to make it, pure and simple.

Such is the case with Austin, Texas artist Dane Phillip Smith. He’s only released two CD’s thus far (his debut, I’ll Carry On, is also available for purchase and download via his website). Nevertheless, his electric blues-rock musicianship has the hallmarks of a master in the making. He’s certainly got the chops on guitar, and his lead vocals are one part Phil Collins and one part Randy Newman. With postmodern nonchalance, he plays his way through ten original tracks, which is a big boon.

Dane Phillip Smith’s love for rhythm, blues and roots music started at the age of thirteen. Hailing from Columbus, OH, he fell in love with this magazine’s favorite genre when he first heard Chicago blues on a PBS radio broadcast. As for his songwriting, it draws from multiple styles, including soul, jazz and rock. This eclectic influence is paramount, but that’s no reason to dismiss it. On every note and in every riff, listeners can hear deeply-imbued passion. His songwriting is already a cut above the usual, presenting fresh lyrics in unique arrangements.

Performing alongside our front man (lead vox and guitar) are Nico Leophonte on drums; Michael Weston Archer on acoustic and electric bass; Matt Ferrell on B3 organ and electric trombone; Matt Hubbard on trombone; Johnny Moeller on rhythm and lead guitar for track eight, and Lauren Cervantes and Angela Miller on background vocals.

It’s hard to pick the three best songs on this album, but in terms of high energy, these are tops.

Track 01: “Devil Mind” – Sometimes having a diabolical frame of mental reference doesn’t mean one plans to kill or do other wicked deeds. In the case of our narrator, having a “Devil Mind” is more of a funk: “Well, I’m confused. I’m overwhelmed. I’m flying high; I’m crashing down. I hate my game; it’s all the same, and I’m always searching for someone to blame. I want to be the light, but I’m driving blind. I’ve got a devil mind.” With a gritty low-note intro and edgy B3 organ from Matt Ferrell, this opening tune will break anyone out of the doldrums.

Track 05: “I Need a Change” – A jazz-influenced number with New Orleans flair, track five expresses a feeling all of us have had at one time or another. “Same old thing, a different day; I need a new scene in this one-act play.” This could very well be a show tune on Broadway if it got the right attention. Matt Hubbard guest stars on tongue-in-cheek trombone.

Track 08: “(Don’t) Play with Fate” – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” So says the old saw, especially when it comes to tried-and-true methods of doing business – or conducting romance. Get out on the dance floor, people, because nothing will make your feet move to the beat than this Chicago-style shuffle. Not only is the guitar (featuring guest start Johnny Moeller) spicier than hot sauce, but the other instrumentation is perfectly balanced as well.

Looks Like Down to Me will surely find its way UP on the blues rock charts in no time!

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 – Studebaker John 

studebaker john photo 1He’s a groover.

John Grimaldi a.k.a Studebaker John makes dangerous turns as he hits 60 in six seconds on a five-speed. But you never feel the bump of switching gears. He’s that smooth.

His primary influences are a one-armed harmonica player and a guitarist with six fingers on one hand.

He’s the son of an Italian plumber who grew up among gangsters in an area of northwest Chicago called “The Patch,” recorded with the Pretty Things and turned down a tour with The Yardbirds.

One of his records was rejected by Bob Koester at Delmark Records because it was less blues and more Old School Rockin’ only to have Bob’s wife Sue tell her husband to grab it back.

He’s put out 18 records in 40 years without a single cover song on any of them. He says simply, “I don’t know if its a matter of pride, or just that I think my songs offer something different, and that’s what I want to do is offer something that’s good but also different. It’s not like I wanted to play “Stormy Monday,” “Sweet Home Chicago” and “Mustang Sally” for the rest of my life.”

It all began for John Grimaldi on Windy City’s Maxwell St., the after, after hours hang for everyone from Hound Dog Taylor to Taildragger.

Studebaker John: “Maxwell St. was like a flea market on Sunday morning. (The blues musicians) actually came from clubs, got a little rest or slept in the car, pulled out and started playing again. They were making tips, and the tips were probably better money than the club money to be honest with you.

“Every corner had a guy there with a trench coat on. He’d open up his coat and show you thousands of watches all hanging off him like a tree, and he’d roll up his sleeve and show you all kinds of chains and jewelry. You’d go from table to table looking at used or stolen merchandise. Who knew? And there was a record store down there, a place where a friend of mine got most of his 78s that were real rare even back then.”

It was the mid-60s. John Grimaldi was about 13, helping his father drum up plumbing business. Dad and his salesman had gone to buy corned beef sandwiches for lunch. “I’m a young kid, and my father’s salesman goes, ‘Hey, don’t get lost. Your father will be pissed off at me. I don’t want that.’ ‘Don’t worry,’ I said, ‘I’m coming right back.’

John heard music in the distance and was drawn to it like a kid to a Christmas tree. “I thought at first, ‘Oh, that sounds pretty interesting. Wonder what that is?’ I turned the corner, and there was a crowd of people 10 or 15 people standing around. I could only see like the backs of their heads, and so I moved up and as I moved up, it got louder and louder.

studebaker john photo 2“I got up right in front of the band, and there was one-armed John Wrencher playing harp and singing into the same mic. There’s this real raw type of guitar player, kind of like a Magic Sam, and the drummer Playboy Vincent who had half of a real drum kit, and the other half was toy drums. It was just those three guys.

“It was real raw, but great harmonica sound, great sound. There was other people playing, and I never even knew who a lot of them were. I never really got that interested ’cause I liked John Wrencher the best. This guy was great. He taught me a lot on harp just by watching him because he only had one arm.”

Wrencher had lost his arm in a car accident in the early ’50s. “He was cupping the harp and holding the mic in the same hand, but he was getting this sound that was like tremolo – what I call a wobble – which most guys you would see shaking their head or shaking the harp and forth across the mouth. He was getting that without doing any of that. I started figuring it out. He was tongue blocking and the stuff that he was doing started me trying stuff like that. “(I said to myself) I’m gonna go back and see him every time I come down here, and I did.

“The guitar played a complimenting line, almost like a bass run to what was going on with the harp. That’s all that there was was just guitar, drum, he played harp and sang through the same mic. He blew harp out of. The guitar player was also plugged into the same amp There was no P.A. So, it was just wild, and raw and really – I loved it. I had played harmonica since I was a little kid, but I had basically never heard it played like that before. I had heard the Rolling Stones, that type of thing. But this was like a real distorted, real low-down sound.

“When I first started playing harmonica, of course, it was just my dad’s harmonica, and he had a bunch of Harmonicats records. I can recall as a child hearing a lot of stuff on the radio and TV. Channel 26 had a little show called “Red Hot & Blues” back when I was in grade school. I can remember that. And I can remember seeing guys on that show. If I’m not mistaken, I may have even seen Magic Sam on that show and Otis Rush. Hound Dog Taylor was on that show. Sometimes, they’d play live. A lot of times they’d just be lip synching the record.”

Hound Dog Taylor was the Chicago blues guitarist that inspired Bruce Iglauer to found Alligator Records in 1971. He had six fingers on one hand and, like John Wrencher, his sound was as raw as the meat of the Chicago stockyards. John first saw Taylor at an all-ages concert about the time Iglauer signed him.

studebaker john photo 3“I went there with my sister and a friend. It was just like a nightclub basically, but you didn’t have to be 21 to get in. There was no alcohol served. It was kind of bring your own. I don’t know if anybody was drinking, but there were a whole lot of stoned kids out there.

“Whenever you’d meet Hound Dog, it was just subject to that moment ’cause he was one of these guys that would get up in the morning and start drinking and maybe never stop. So, I know Bruce got a lot out of him. I wasn’t in any position to get anything out of him at that time. I was just trying to learn.

“J. B. Hutto was a little more helpful and really a nice guy and totally sober at the time. I guess he had had his bout with alcohol, too, at some point. I would just basically go and watch people. I didn’t talk to them. I would ask them a few little things. They didn’t sit me down and teach me this or teach me that. What they did do was play, and I was standing right there in front of them and watched what they did.”

John Grimaldi was born November 5, 1952. He started messing with his father’s large chromatic harp at age seven on the sly. John Wrencher’s harp was the smaller kind that he’d heard the Mick Jagger playing on early Rolling Stones albums. He was an art major at junior college. “I only went to school because I wanted two years off. My future was gonna be what my father said it was gonna be, (as his assistant) plumber. By the way, he was never a fan of any of my music.”

He named his band the Hawks in the 1970s after the Studebaker Hawk and Chicago blues artist J. B. Hutto & The Hawks. In 1978 he recorded his first record, Straight No Chaser, released on Retread Records. His second recording, Rocking the Blues, is released in 1985 on Avanti Records named after The Studebaker Avanti, a futuristic car Studebaker produced in small quantities for only two years in the early ’60s.

In 1991, John recorded with the Yardbirds and Pretty Things on Demon Records’ CD Chicago Blues. This recording led to another Demon Records’ release Wine, Women & Whiskey, but he turned down an offer to tour with the Yardbirds as their lead guitarist in 1994. He has recorded also for Double Trouble, Evidence, Blind Pig, and Delmark as well as Avanti. Two of his songs are included in the 1993 film Calendar and another in the 1994 film Exotica.

He continues to play Chicago clubs and tours Europe. He currently is preparing for a mid-winter tour of Canada. Yes, he’s a road warrior.

Until well into the 1980s, John was a plumber by day and a musician at night until the plumbers’ union kicked him out because he was doing more playing than plumbing. “I’d been a plumber for a number of years. It’s not a very glamorous kind of work. You just have to make some money playing music, and there’s a lot of guys out there now that are still in that bag. If you love it, you keep doing it. That’s all.

studebaker john photo 4“At first I didn’t really play guitar too much in the clubs. I was mainly a harmonica player, and at the time we’re talking late ’60s, early ’70s, there wasn’t a whole lot of jobs open for harmonica players. It was later on that I started playing guitar with the band. I always played a little and later on after I heard Hound Dog Taylor I started really getting into slide guitar and playing it some with my band.”

John may have rubbed shoulders with Chicago’s blues icons, but he’s never been a purist. He recalls meeting Mick Jagger. “I gave him a copy of Time Will Tell (1997) I met him at Legends one night when we were playing, and I gave him a copy of the CD, and he was real respectful and said, ‘Oh, yeah, you sound really good’ A really nice guy as far as I knew. He had huge bodyguards.”

About the same time he told me in an interview, “Rock and roll came from the same place as blues. “And although it came a few years later down the line, that’s where it came from was blues, and early rock is basically just blues speeded up. I don’t see anything wrong with that. I don’t. It’s a roots-oriented music, and it’s good. The other thing is being in Chicago when I first started out, man, my competition – if you want to call me even in the same category as these acts – was like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters. These guys were playing the clubs when I first started out, and let’s face it. These guys are living legends, and I was just some kid from the northwest side of Chicago, you know?”

Studebaker John is an alchemist. He turns grit into gold. It’s a slippery slope between capturing the unvarnished truth of the blues with its fundamentals with honest simplicity while projecting the energy that is the essence of rock and roll. All of his albums do that. He has a sound that’s instantly recognizable but varies in its influences.

“Every one of my records are different. It you noticed after Tremoluxe, Time Will Tell was completely different from that. You notice after that I did a record for Evidence, a little more rockish blues kind of thing, rock and roll that people could dance to. Then, after that, I did a solo acoustic which actually wasn’t intended to be a released. It was just supposed to be a song demo.

“Then I did Between Life and Death, a total departure. It was more amplified up guitar with effects up on it and such. So, it was blues, blues/rock, but it was also songs that weren’t 1,4,5 progressions. Then, after that, I went back and did more of a boogie blues thing called Self-Made Man, and that one was one of my better selling records, and it was kind of a return to Tremoluxe (Note: one of John’s best produced by Jim Gaines of Stevie Ray Vaughan fame), but it was more like a combination of Tremoluxe and Time Will Tell.

“Then I went and did a complete reversal and did a whole thing that was almost similar to Santana. It was a lot of Latin groove and a couple of blues numbers integrated in between. Then, I started the Maxwell Street Kings scenerio of going back to the roots and stuff the way it was played on Maxwell St. And in between that I did a rock and roll record called Old School Rockin’.”

studebaker john photo 5Bob Koester of Delmark Records at first rejected that album. “Bob didn’t like the record ’cause it was rock and roll, but Sue, his wife, liked it, and as I was leaving, it was OK with me. Since I had done That’s The Way You Do (2010) for ’em, I wanted to acknowledge them in the chain of events and let them know this record is available if they want it. I wasn’t expecting them to take it actually.

“I expected exactly what I got from Bob which was just like, ‘Uh, I’m not really interested in putting out that because it’s a little too much rock and roll.’ And I said, ‘Ok, that’s understandable,’ and as I was leaving, I was about two or three miles away, and I got a call from Sue, and she said, ‘Come back here with that record immediately.’ That’s what I did, and they took another listen to it and decided to go with it.”

John’s latest album, Songs for None is his best yet. On it he reflects on his own mortality. On “Sometimes I Wonder” he sings, “Sometimes I wonder how much longer I’m gonna be around.”

“That song is actually the oldest song on the release. That song was one of the very first songs that I wrote. On the original arrangement, the music was different, but the words were pretty much the same. If you look up the research of the neighborhood I was brought up in, you’ll realize that was a dangerous area itself. You’re talking about a place where lot of the gangsters came from. Jerry Del Giudice (Blind Pig Records founder) wrote something in the liner notes once about I came from the “Patch,” and I idolize the gangsters. Well, that’s true.

“Death is not about if it’s gonna happen. It’s a matter of when it’s gonna happen. What I try to do is just do what I like, just do what I want, especially now and try not to get involved in a lot of situations where I have to take a lot of shit from people. What I do is say what I mean, and I mean what I say. It may not always be very pretty, and it may not always be the rose-colored world that everybody wants to hear about, but it’s true.”

In “Junkyard Preacher,” he sings, “The junkyard preacher said, ‘If you want to play come hell or high water, someday you gotta pay.’”

“‘Junkyard Preacher’ is somewhat of a true story. I did some work on my own vans to keep ’em running, and a friend of mine runs a junkyard, and there’s stands this six-foot seven black guy, and he runs basically in the junkyard preaching the Bible. It was just a sight to behold and hear. The song is actually the truth of that day.”

On Songs For None he combines digital and analog technology to create a haunting vision that brings his ability to combine rock and blues styles into focus as no other artist does.

“What I did was use a bunch of old tape recorders, not just one, and I transferred it to a Casam 8-track machine which is also a tape recorder, and that’s where I put the background vocals, an extra guitar here or there, a little bit of percussion. There’s no actual drums on it. It’s all pretty raw stuff. I love the original recordings of Alan Lomax recording Mississippi Fred McDowell at his house.

“Initially, the idea was to just do that, but I’m such a Chess nut. I guess with the sound that I really love the way the early Chess records sounded. They were done mainly at Universal Studios under Gill Putnam I believe was the engineer, but I just love their sound, the reverb, the slight echo, that type of thing that I still do to this day. It sounds better than anything I’ve ever heard in my life.

studebaker john photo 6“Then I thought, ‘Well, maybe I’ll do a cross section of stuff. I want to do some songs where I just played harmonica and sang and just played the songs. And I wanted to add some background vocals on a song and some percussion on another couple of different guitars on one or two. It took me a long time doing it by myself, but I enjoyed every second of it, and it was a labor of love, I guess you could say.

“Originally, I had mastered it on a Revox tape recorder at (59PS) in a bunch of smaller reels. Then, I brought them to the studio called BMR with world class digital converters. So, we took the tape recorder, plugged it into his board. He did what he did to it, the converters and a little EQ here and there and stuff like that.”

Studebaker John has never been an artist to avoid precedent. As dependable as the Lake Michigan wind, he plays whatever feels right, regardless of whether it’s rock and roll, surf music (which he played as a teenager) or raw-boned blues. He’s all original, but his songs are basic, heavy on the groove and supported by vocals that are as immediately identifiable as Ray Charles. He’s full of surprises but none that deviate from the fundamentals.

In 1996 he said, “I take lots of chances. I don’t just sit back and play the tried and true and play the little things we know are gonna work. The reason why it sounds like me is because I take those chances, because I stretch the boundaries, because I’m not satisfied with playing the same old licks. At the same time, I’m not interested in stuff that is all technique and no real feel, I’m not a schooled musician and there was a point where I could have taken lessons and could have started learning probably what I should know or some of the things I should know. Instead, I turned my guitar to E and leaned how to play that way and quit playing the guitar normally.

In 2019 he says, “I write songs I think that are truthful and artistic, but I’ve never been schooled in any of this. So, I just do what I think sounds right to me.”

Check out John’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.

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Chillicothe Public Library District – Chillicothe,IL

Legendary blues artist John Primer and the Real Deal Blues Band will present “The Blues According to John Primer,” a high-energy Chicago blues show, at 2:00 p.m. Sunday, February 10, at Chillicothe Public Library, 430 N. Bradley Ave., Chillicothe, IL 61523. The concert is free (donations appreciated). Attendees are encouraged to stay for a post-concert talk and Q&A with Primer about his musical life and experiences.

John Primer is a legend among blues artists: a two-time Grammy nominee, he helped to build the sound and style of Chicago blues over his decades-long career with his strong traditionalist blues phrasing, seasoned rhythm and blues vocals, and lightning-fast slide guitar techniques. Having played or recorded with a “Who’s Who” of blues greats, Primer’s personal accolades, including a Lifetime Achievement Award, reflect his countless contributions to the history of Chicago blues.

For more information, please visit or call 309-274-2719.

Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaign, IL

Prairie Crossroads Blues Society continues holding two Blues Jams each month. Thanks to Pipa’s Pub, 604 S. Country Fair Dr. in Champaign for hosting these jams held the 2nd Sunday of each month from 4 to 7 pm and the 4th Wednesday of each month from 7 to 10 pm. The host band plays the 1st set and then it’s open to all the jammers in the house.

On Sunday January 13the Jenkins Brothers will host. Alex and Benny Jenkins won the Solo/Duo Challenge at the Windy City Blues Fest this summer and are headed to Memphis in January to compete in the International Blues Challenge. This is also a fundraiser for the Jenkins Brothers.

In February the Blues Deacons will host and Sunday March 10, we welcome back Robert Kimbrough Sr. Robert is the youngest son of Junior Kimbrough and put on an amazing show at the 2018 Prairie Crossroads Blues Fest. Bring your instrument. For more info visit:

Minnesota Blues Society – St Paul, MN

Minnesota Blues Society presents Harold Tremblay’s annual Road to Memphis fundraiser Sunday, January 13, 1:00-6:00 at Wilebski’s Blues Saloon 1638 Rice St, St Paul.

Come support our 2019 IBC Musicians: Dee Miller-band, Tony and Joe- duo, C-Notes-with a full evening of luxic by Jimmi and the Band of Souls, Alex “Crankshaft” Larson, Scottie Miller, Mark Cameron Band, Joe Flip and Tony Cuchetti, C-Notes, Dee Miller Band.

We will also have a Bake Sale & 50/50 Raffle. Suggested donation $10.00. More info

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 the Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 8:00pm to midnight. Additional information on any performer listed below is available upon request.

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

The Charlotte Blues Society – Charlotte, NC

The Charlotte Blues Society proudly announces its February Blues Bash on 10th February, 2019, featuring Lipbone Redding. A one-man band, Lipbone has shared the stage with many of the greats and is sure to entertain. Note that the date has been set back one week so the Super Bowl wouldn’t have to face the competition

The event will be held at the Rabbit Hole, 1801 Commonwealth Ave., Charlotte, NC 28205. Doors at 7:00, music at 8:00, to be followed by an open blues jam. Admission is free for current members with a card and just $5.00 for non-members.

Like last year, we continue to collect non-perishable foods and household supplies for Loaves and Fishes. 1 Can? I Can!

Great Northern Blues Society – Wausau,WI

To celebrate 20 years of the Blues Café, we will be kicking off the weekend by hosting a 20th Anniversary Party, Friday, March 8 at the Rothschild Pavilion (near Wausau, WI). Doors will open at 5:30 pm, with Howard “Guitar” Luedtke getting things started at 6:30 and Reverend Raven & The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys taking the stage at 8:30.

Friday admission can be bought the night of the event for $5 and is included with all Saturday Blues Café ticket, which will be available to purchase at Friday’s event.

Saturday’s Blues Café lineup includes the Mark Cameron Band at 1 pm, the Ivy Ford Band at 3 pm, the Cash Box Kings at 5 pm, the Danielle Nicole Band at 7 pm, and Ronnie Baker Brooks at 9 pm. Doors will open at noon. We hope you can join us for a weekend of great music, and to celebrate 20 years of good times at the Blues Café. For more information, visit

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