Issue 13-24 June 13, 2019

Cover photo © 2019 James Rice Photography

 In This Issue 

Marty Gunther has an inspiring feature interview with Jimmy Vivino. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Brandon Santini, Big Daddy Wilson, Benny Turner and Cash McCall, Jim Coyle, Tiffany Pollack & Eric Johanson, Goin’ Down South, Daddy Long Legs and AG Weinberger.

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

 From The Editor’s Desk 

Blues Blast MUsic Awards logo imageHey Blues Fans,

We just finished tabulating the nominations. I am excited. Are you ready?

The 2019 Blues Blast Music Award nominees will be announced tomorrow June 14, 2019! Voting begins on July1 and continues until August 15 at

It’s gonna be a real Blues party on September 13, 2019 at the Tebala Event Center in Rockford, Illinois. Tickets for the Blues Music Awards Ceremonies will go on sale on July 1.

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

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 Blues Wanderings 

benny turner bobby rush thornetta davis joanna connor jimmy johnson

The Chicago Blues Fest was amazing last weekend. We heard Benny Turner, Bobby Rush, Thornetta Davis, Joanna Connor and Jimmy Johnson. WOW, and that was just on Friday! We will have photo coverage of the whole weekend of Chicago Blues Fest in upcoming issues.

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

brandon santini album imageBrandon Santini – The Longshot

American Showplace Music – 2019

11 tracks; 51 minutes

Since relocating to Memphis Brandon Santini’s star has been on the rise and he has received multiple nominations for Blues Music and Blues Blast awards. On his latest CD he travelled to New Jersey with his regular guitarist Timo Arthur to record with a studio band featuring keyboards player John Ginty, acoustic guitarist Jed Potts, drummer Reid Muchow and bassist Chuck Combs; Greg Gumpel plays slide on three tracks, Jimmy Bennett guitar on one, Michael Bram and Doug Hinrichs add percussion to five cuts, Moe Watson backing vocals to three and Samantha Bono handclaps to one. Brandon wrote six songs on his own and collaborated with Timo, Greg, Victor Wainwright, Jeff Jensen and Joel DaSilva on four others; the lone cover is Willie Dixon’s “Evil” on which Brandon does a fair impression of Howling Wolf’s vocals by singing through the harp mike and plays some spirited harp. Indeed, the harp playing throughout is striking, Brandon taking a leaf from the James Cotton handbook – no bad thing!

The result is a uniformly excellent album with diverse influences: opener “Don’t Come Around Here” rocks out superbly with a solid guitar riff and lots of strong keys work; Greg Gumpel’s slide adds a Delta feel to “Beggin’ Baby” and “One More Day” is an acoustic tune with lyrics that take us to church, Brandon sounding quite at home with the gospel feel. Those are just the first three tracks and the quality never drops as Brandon demonstrates his influences from tracks like mid-paced rocker “Heartbreaker” to the acoustic country ballad “Broken Bones” which harks back to mid-period Dylan with its wistful lyrics about being away from home on the road.

“Going Home” is another acoustic-based track but this time played at pace with lots of dramatic harp playing. If you are looking for something heavier try the churning “Back To You” with John Ginty on full-blown Hammond, Timo’s big guitar solo on “My Worried Mind” or the catchy blues-rock of “Somebody’s Gotta Go” which finishes the album with a flourish.

Blending rock with traditional harp styles is not new but Brandon Santini does it as well as anyone on this exciting release which is well worth checking out. Expect it to figure on various ‘Best Of’ lists over the coming months.

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 – 2 of 8 

big daddy wilson cd imageBig Daddy Wilson – Deep In My Soul

Ruf Records 1259

12 songs – 45 minutes

Based in Germany after being discharged from the Army more than 25 years ago, Big Daddy Wilson has made a name for himself as an acoustic bluesman in the past, but delivers a set of sensational soul blues here in an album recorded stateside under the direction of Grammy-winning producer Jim Gaines.

Born Wilson Blount in Edenton, N.C., he grew up in poverty, sang gospel in church and listened to country on the radio. His first exposure to the blues didn’t happen until adulthood in Europe, where he’s made his home since marrying a German woman.

Once a shy man who penned poems on the side, he quickly realized that he’d “found a part of me that was missing for so long in my life.” Influenced by fellow ex-pats Champion Jack Dupree, Louisiana Red, Eddie Boyd and Luther Allison, he started putting his words to music and putting them on display at jams, where he quickly won over audiences with his tunes and powerful, warm baritone voice.

Now in his early 60s, he began a recording career in the 1990s and has at least a dozen releases to his credit, both as a leader and in acoustic partnership with Doc Fozz. He’s been associated with the Ruf imprint for the past three years, joining Vanessa Collier and Si Cranstoun for Blues Caravan 2017: Blues Got Soul and the CD/DVD solo release, Blues From The Road.

Wilson hooked up with Gaines, a 1999 Grammy winner for his work with Carlos Santana and recorded this triumphant homecoming at the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala. Featuring an all-star lineup that includes Laura Chavez and Will McFarlane on guitar, Dave Smith on bass, Steve Potts on percussion, Mark Narmore and Rick Steff on keys, Brad Guin on sax, Ken Waters on trumpet and Mitch Mann on backing vocals, this disc swings from the jump.

Big Daddy penned ten of the 12 cuts here. You know you’re in for a treat from the opening phrases of the slow-blues shuffle “I Know (She Said),” which describes love at first sight and the realization that it would be eternal after “one smile, one word, one simple dance.” The theme runs powerfully throughout, continuing with the medium-fast “Ain’t Got No Money,” which states: “I’m a full grown man with strong loving arms” and everything else he needs.

“Mississippi Me,” a keyboard driven ballad written by Sandy Carroll, keeps the refrain going with images of the wind blowing through the willows in Tupelo before the band gets funky to deliver “Tripping On You.” This time, the love bug’s bitten Wilson so deeply that it’s akin to dreaming, singing and dancing in the rain.

The message shifts slightly for “I Got Plenty (Money Don’t Grow On Trees).” This time, Big Daddy sings praises for all the good folks he encounters every day. He cautions not to worry about what other people say in “Hold On To Our Love” before “Deep In My Soul” reveals that all of his tunes come from a life that’s included picking cotton and a hard-scrabble existence.

That song sets up the bittersweet material that follows. “I’m Walking” finds Wilson tired of fussing and fighting with his missus along with what he terms her “nasty” ways – so much so that he’s heading for the door. He recognizes his lady’s torment in “Crazy World” and vows to stay , but quickly discovers he doesn’t what to be the “Redhead Stepchild” after realizing that there’s “too much salt in my gravy” and that she’s there when he returns home after a hard work day.

What’s to blame? “Voodoo,” he says, still in love and deeply confused, before bringing the album to a close with a brief acoustic refrain of the traditional gospel tune, “Couldn’t Keep It To Myself.”

Available through most major retailers, Deep In My Soul is a welcome return home to someone who’s been away far too long. If you like old-school soul blues, you’ll love this one. It makes your heart sing then tugs at your heart strings!

Blues Blast Magazine Senior Writer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. Now based out of Charlotte, N.C., his first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

benny turner cash mccall cd imageBenny Turner and Cash McCall – Going Back Home

Nola Blue Records

10 tracks

Sixty yeas ago Benny Turner and Cash McCall began their musical journey together in Chicago and come back together here for a fine set of tunes to relive their experiences with ten of their favorites. Recorded in Memphis, New Orleans and Chicago, the pair revisit the days when they played on Chicago’s South and West Sides. Lots of great guests appear with a core of players including Turner on bass, McCall on rhythm guitar, and Terry Saffold on drums. Turner and McCall swap the lead vocals as they work their way through this fine CD.

Horns and a full sound on “I Got To Find A Way” opens the album with soul and features Carla Davis on vocals with Benny and Benny’s daughter backing him up. It’s a great cut and it sure sets the tone for a fun ride through these tunes. “Spoonful” is next with Cash taking the front man position. Johnny Sansone on harp adds a great dimension, but Cash sells this with his emotive vocals that are full of feeling. Joe Krown on keys also makes for a nice rendition of the cut. Next up is “Poison Ivy,” another classic and here we get Benny on vocals. The organ adds a nice feel (which is uncredited). “Money” follows, the only original cut on the CD. McCall wrote the tune and sings lead. It’s a song about money getting us in trouble and McCall sells it well. Elmore James’ “Shake Your Money Maker” gets a rousing cover with Butch Mudbone on slide and Benny fronting the band. Jason Minglehoff (sax) and Barney Floyd (trumpet) are the horn section and add to the fun with some nice backing and a solo. Raishene Webb is on keys, adding a great dimension to the cut.

More James with “It Hurts Me Too” is next with McCall up front. Billy Branch appears on harp and gives us a cool solo along with more good slide by Butch. “It’s A Man Down There” picks up the pace well beyond the original and Benny gets to lead us. Both Krown and Webb are on keys and organ and make this an even jumpier frolic through this tune. Well done! McCall takes his turn with “The Dirty Dozens,” an old Little Johnny James song. Krown adds keys as McCall testifies and gives us an inspired performance. “Built For Comfort” features Sansone’s dirty harp and Turner on vocals. Krown and Webb both appear and fill in sweetly. It’s another sweet cover. The album concludes with “Bring It On Home,” the third Willie Dixon cut. Branch returns with both harp and lead vocals, Krown and Webb also perform and Turner and McCall work respectively on bass and guitar. It’s a cool rendition and a nice close to this Chicago blues infused set of tunes.

McCall was suffering with lung cancer as he worked on this project and succumbed to it on April 19, 2019. It was sad to hear of his passing, but this album with Benny and a fine cast of musicians helps us to pay tribute to McCall’s career and his long friendship with Turner. The boys put their spin on these familiar classics and the one original cut is cool and well done. Kudos to Turner for his work on this fourth Nola Blues release and reprising his relationship with McCall.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 8 

jim coyle cd imageJim Coyle – In Between

Whack Music 005

9 songs time-27:23

You have just entered the Twilight Zone…Judging from my last few reviews it seems we have entered the era of the mini CD with most clocking in at less than thirty minutes. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Well it’s a fare sight better than including a bunch of second rate filler. But I digress. This effort by Boston based multi instrumentalist-singer-songwriter Jim Coyle is a pleasure to behold with nary a negative vibe to be seen. Ah, good time music where have you been hiding yourself. Well Jim Coyle has found it and revived it to the delight of your humble reviewer. The music here is an amalgamation of various genres. Old time country, rock, folk, blues, bluegrass and who knows what else under God’s blue sky meet up here to produce a joyous good time for all, abetted by a gem of a backing crew of musicians.

Do what you can now while you can is the sentiment of the feel good “Meter’s Always Running”. Electric slide guitar, sax, accordion and stride piano nicely back up Jim and his background singer’s here. The guy has a great every man voice. Country roots via fiddle, acoustic guitar, banjo and upright bass propel the nifty little ditty that is “Back In Town Again”. “Bar Room Gentleman” is the tale of an orderly drinker. Bluegrass meets its’ close cousin country music for the traditional fiddle tune “Lonesome Fiddle Blues”.

Fiddle shows its’ self again in a sort of lazy Sunday afternoon song-“Maybe”. Dang it just keeps getting better. The country “Hand You’re Dealt” is an optimist’s anthem to the accompaniment of jaunty banjo, fiddle, mandolin and upright bass. A lovely clarinet and sax fueled instrumental is next up with “Waltz For The World”. The title tune “In Between” bemoans always being “The monkey in the middle” that is helped along with some fleet fingered electric slide guitar. Things get wrapped up with “Pond Skating”, a lovely instrumental except for a chorus of “ews and ahs”. Electric piano and acoustic guitar give a shimmering quality.

Ok, the only bad thing about this recording being short is that it’s short and it leaves you wanting more of this pleasurable sound. Alrighty then…give it another spin. It’s just a wonderful time this one!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

tiffany plooack and eric johanson cd imageTiffany Pollack & Eric Johanson – Blues In My Blood

Nola Blue Records

11 songs – 47 minutes

Individually, Tiffany Pollack and Eric Johanson are both powerhouses in the Louisiana music scene – she as an established jazz vocalist and he as a rising singer and blues-rock guitarist. Together for the first time here, they create a New Orleans flavored rue guaranteed to have you yearning for more.

The musical meeting didn’t happen by chance. When Tiffany reunited with her biological family about a decade ago, she discovered that she and Eric were cousins, and their mothers have been pushing for them to work together ever since.

A native of the Big Easy and adopted at birth, Pollack began working professionally since her teens after a neighbor, Louisiana legend Russell Batiste, invited her to sing backup in his band. Her journey included several stops, including P.H. Fred’s The Round Pegs, The Consortium Of Genius a pair of jazz ensembles and an ‘80s metal band while raising a family and first studying mortuary and then opening a business.

She walked away from the funeral industry a few years ago, and has been dividing her time between two jazz groups: The Dapper Dandies and her own Tiffany Pollack & Co. This release is her first album.

A native of Alexandria, Eric began jamming in the Crescent City at age 15, but immigrated for a while to New Zealand after losing everything he owned to Hurricane Katrina. He returned stateside in 2010 and spent time in the bands of Cyrill Neville, Terrance Simien and Corey Henry’s Treme Funktet before fusing funk, blues and rock and making his debut as a bandleader with the well-received CD, Burn It Down, on Whiskey Bayou Records in 2017. He’s been touring recently in support of Tab Benoit, who produced.

Pollack and Johanson penned seven of the 11 cuts here. They’re backed by John Gros on keyboards, producer Jack Miele on bass, bass guitar and percussion, Phil Wang on bass, Brentt Arcement on drums and keys with Sean Carey providing backing vocals. Harp player Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone and the 504 Horns both make single-cut guest appearances.

The title tune, “Blues In My Blood,” opens the action. It’s a slow blues that opens acoustically with both a Delta and gospel feel that gives Tiffany plenty of space to show off her warm, powerful alto voice. It builds in tension throughout and gives Eric room to deliver a burning, but brief electric solo. The feel and tempo continues with Johanson at the mike and Sansone making haunting runs on the reeds for “Memories To Forget,” which recounts walking away and turning his back on his one true love.

A step-down run on acoustic guitar kicks off “Keep It Simple” before the action heats up for a driving, stop-time electric blues with Tiffany urging a lover to stop changing his mind and making things more complicated than they should. The mood turns somber as she delivers the acoustic dirge “Michael.” Based on her former job, it’s tribute to a strapping 19-year-old who lays dead on her mortuary table.

The duet, “Diamonds On The Crown,” powers out of the gate with loosely veiled statements that speak out against war, poverty and the world’s current state of affairs, before covers of the Rolling Stones’ “No Expectations” and Nina Simone’s “Do I Move You?” The blues-rocker, “Slave Of Tomorrow,” finds Johanson wondering if he’s to blame or “if the world’s half-insane” before the true blues love song, “Get Lost With Me,” brightens the mood. Two more covers — Joni Mitchell’s “River” and an interesting take on Pete Seeger’s warhorse, “If I Had A Hammer” – bring the disc to a close.

Available through iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and other outlets, Blues In My Blood is rock-solid. The mighty Mississippi and hints of the past flow throughout as Pollack and Johanson deliver material with thoroughly modern themes.

Blues Blast Magazine Senior Writer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. Now based out of Charlotte, N.C., his first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

goin down south cd imageGoin’ Down South – Juke Joint Romp

self release

7 songs time-28:48

Goin’ Down South are a bare bones guitar-bass-drums-harmonica trio out of Chicago carrying on the tradition of Delta and Hill Country Blues. The main focus here is the loose grooves, with non-sophisticated lyrics. This CD clocks in at just less than thirty minutes. John Liggett provides vocals, guitar and harmonica. All songs are jointly composed by the band.

The title song is a toe tapper with repetitive lyrics that sets the climate for most of what follows. This is sh*t-kickin’ music that transports you to a broken down southern juke joint. Harmonica plays over the incessant beat. Take a stroll down Beale St. to the loose groove and melodic guitar of “Keep On Rollin'”. “Delta Rose” relies on a happy-go-lucky vibe. The Hill Country trance-like repetitive approach is taken on “Good Girl”. Shades of R.L. Burnside.

“Sweet Mama” slows things down. What’s southern blues without a visit to the watermelon patch/ “just like a watermelon fresh off the vine”. His baby is the blues to his rock and roll on “She’s The Blues”. The proceedings finish off with the nice loping beat of “Let Loose”.

This music is about having a nicely sloppy toe-tappin’ good time. John Liggett’s casual vocal delivery suits this music to a “T”. The energetic rhythm section is with him on every funky turn as he plies his magic on guitar and harmonica. A Southern Culture On The Skids hokey southern vibe hovers over this recording. This stuff is about letting go of your cares. Who needs deep lyrics when you got such a crazy rockin’ band. Throw some saw dust down on the floor and let it all hang out!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8 

daddy long legs cd imageDaddy Long Legs – Lowdown Ways

Yep Roc Records

12 songs – 38 minutes

Based out of Brooklyn, NY, Daddy Long Legs are a refreshing throwback to the raucous mess of early rock’n’roll and garage rock, playing hopped-up blues and blues-rock with lethal abandon. Lowdown Ways recalls everything from Howlin’ Wolf to MC5 and is one of the most enjoyable albums of the year so far.

Not to be confused with the Canadian band of the same name, this Daddy Long Legs features Brian Hurd on vocals, harmonica and guitar, Murat Akturk on slide guitar and Josh Styles on drums and maraca. Lowdown Ways is their third studio album (in addition to one live album and two singles) and their first on Yep Roc Records. The album, which features 12 original compositions, was produced by Jimmy Sutton and engineered by Alex Hall at Hi-Style Studios in Chicago, and they have captured a series of gloriously wild performances from the band.

Lowdown Ways opens with “Theme from DADDY LONG LEGS”, a foot-stomping, harp-driven piece that recalls early field hollers with its repetitive hummed backing vocals and primitive percussion. It’s a fine statement of intent and the pace then picks up through “Pink Lemonade” and “Ding Dong Dang”, both of which see the vocal melody follow a heavily-distorted single note guitar line, drawing echoes of early country blues, albeit country blues that have been dragged through a hedge of electricity and modern attitude.

The one chord boogie of “Morning, Noon & Nite” sounds like early John Lee Hooker backed by a strung out Stray Cats, while “Glad Rag Ball” recalls primeval rock and roll and emphasizes Hurd’s ragged voice. That rock and roll feel is also captured in the stupidly catchy “Winners Circle” with its sing-along chorus and entertaining key changes. The toe-tapping “Célaphine” has a Cajun feel, with Hurd’s harmonica playing nicely mimicking an accordion even if his vocals sound more punk-London than Louisiana. The band goes country for the acoustic “Back Door Fool”, where Hurd’s vocals sound a little strained, although there are also hints of country on the impressive closer, “Wrong Side Of The River”, which sounds like a debauched relative of “Ghost Riders In The Sky” gone to seed.

With 12 songs packed into 38 minutes, this is not an album with long solos. Hurd’s harmonica is both the primary solo instrument as well as an important rhythmic contribution. “Bad Neighborhood”, the only track to exceed four minutes, is also one of the few to feature guitar solos. The focus of Lowdown Ways is on the song, not the players. Hurd, Akturk and Styles are tight, focused and create an impressively full sound given the lack of bass guitar and other instruments. In addition, clever changes in rhythmic patterns keep tracks like “Snagglepuss” and the gospel-via-Mississippi-Hill-Country-and-a-whiskey-still “Be Gone” interesting.

If you like your blues ragged and raw and shot through with attitude, with intimations of everything from Son House to Dr Feelgood, Captain Beefheart and even the Black Crowes, you will find a lot to enjoy in Lowdown Ways. Tremendous stuff.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 8 

AG Weinberger – Reborn

BigFoot Records

12 songs – 58 minutes

Reborn is the tenth album by Romanian singer, guitar and songwriter, AG Weinberger, and a very impressive release it is, too. Featuring ten original songs, plus two tasty covers, Reborn is probably most accurately categorised as a blues-based album in that the blues is the absolute foundation of all the music here, but there are also liberal dollops of jazz, pop, rock and even cabaret thrown in for good measure.

Hailing from Transylvania, Weinberger has a voice as large as his 6′ 5″, 255 lb frame, but one that is also capable of revealing deep emotion. Perhaps as a result of having spent seven years in the States in the early 2000s, his vocals display no hint of an accent. He is also a fine guitar player, mixing standard guitar and lap steel with aplomb.

The album opens with a cover of “Wang Dang Doodle” that takes the song in directions Willie Dixon probably didn’t envisage when he wrote it. The rhythm section of Pusztai Csaba on drums and Hárs Viktor on bass lay down a bouncing, springy groove over which Cseke Gábor’s piano dances with light jazz lines, while Weinberger sings the song in a relatively orthodox manner. Come the solo section, however, Weinberger lays down a wild jazz-tinged, psychedelic rock guitar solo. It’s an arresting interpretation and heralds the expansive, questing nature of the rest of the album overall.

The upbeat “Sweet Little Number” has hints on New Orleans, especially in Gábor’s jazz-tinged solo. The minor-key “On The Wrong Side” sounds like something Eric Clapton would have loved to have recorded in his mid-80s era and contains a lovely lap steel solo from Weinberger. “The Fool’s Lucky Day” features a guest appearance from the mighty Bob Margolin, who lays down a typically mind-blowing slide guitar solo. There is also a playful “duel” between the two guitarists on the fade out where one can almost hear the smiles of both players. The funky “It Wouldn’t Be Enough” again highlights the superb rhythm work of Csaga and Viktor, while the instrumental “Slippery Slope” recalls some of Robben Ford’s fusion work, although Weinberger has a slightly sharper attack. In contrast, “Just One Minute” is a gentle acoustic ballad with another fine lap-steel solo from Weinberger.

The second cover version on the album is the great Johnnie Bassett’s “Cadillac Blues”, which Weinberger and crew play with reverence, retaining Bassett’s original structure and approach. The sweet piano-led pop of “Caroline” has a catchy chorus, while the title track actually sounds like a 70s rock song with its strummed acoustic guitar, sparse, echoey slide guitar and a mid-section that breaks down into a discordant, curiously uncomfortable, psychedelic workout. The closing track, “I Am The Water” features Weinberger’s vocal accompanied only by Gábor’s delicate piano.

Reborn was impressively recorded by Kálmán Cserny at Origo Studio in Budapest, Hungary, who captured some very warm, natural sounds.

Weinberger describes his music as “related to blues”, which probably undersells the amount of blues on Reborn, although it’s probably fair to say that “Cadillac Blues” and “The Fool’s Lucky Day” are the only unalloyed blues tracks on the release. It is however a fascinating and enjoyable album, highlighting Weinberger’s many talents. Well worth investigating.

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

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 Featured Interview – Jimmy Vivino 

jimmy vivino photo 1When Jimmy Vivino and The Basic Cable Band closed out their long run on Conan O’Brien’s late-night talk show last November, they did it with a rendition of the Howlin’ Wolf deep blues classic, “Killin’ Floor.” It was a proper send-off considering that the show’s format was being cut down from an hour to 30 minutes and costing the world-class musicians their jobs in the process.

But the signoff was much, much more.

For Vivino – one of the most dyed-in-the-wool blues lovers on the planet, it was far more than a swan song. It was a heartfelt tribute, a tip of the hat to Wolf and his guitarist, Hubert Sumlin, who always treated Jimmy like a member of the family. And it was a musical accolade to ‘60s legend Mike Bloomfield, whose playing colored Vivino’s early years in differing shades of cyan.

That night served as the final curtain call for both Jimmy, a skilled guitarist, trumpet and keyboard player, and woodwind-playing brother Jerry who’d been at his side throughout a 25-year TV career that began in New York as members of Conan’s Max Weinberg Seven.

When the show moved to Hollywood, the Vivinos relocated, too, with Jimmy assuming the music director role after Weinberg returned east in 2010, where he resumed his original position as percussionist in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.

Most of all, Vivino says, that final musical interlude served as a sincere thank you to the host and show for allowing him the free rein he received to bring blues artists onto its stage for the world to enjoy. Several legends, including B.B. King, were among that crowd. But the list included dozens more talents whose skills flew under the attention of mainstream America.

“They allowed me to bring in the likes of Jimmy Rogers, James Cotton, Johnnie Johnson, Son Seals, Luther Allison, Joe Louis Walker, Shemekia Copeland — and whoever else I knew was in town,” Vivino recalled recently in an extensive early morning interview.

“I’d ask: ‘Can I bring so-and-so over to do somethin’,’ and they’d always say yes.”

It was his way to “grease the wheel,” he says, for artists who deserved far more attention than they were receiving. It’s a mindset he learned from Bonnie Raitt, who’s never been shy about boosting the careers of others — Ruth Brown, Etta James and Little Milton included — by sharing the stage with them during her own performances and by encouraging others in power positions to do the same.

“I always thought we’d go out with a blues, some Wolf or some Electric Flag,” Vivino says, reflecting on the final show. “When I was a kid, I didn’t even know what ‘killing floor’ meant. I do now. When you find out what it means, you go: ‘Wow! That’s as low as it goes.’”

It’s the description of the brutality of working on the floor in a slaughterhouse, a job that ‘50s superstar Jimmy Reed held on Chicago’s South Side, which he described in gruesome detail in recorded interviews.

“How can you not have a drink and sing some blues after that?” Vivino wonders. “In a way, I guess, it was a ‘killin’ floor’ situation – and, in the deep psyche part of me, was the end of something.”

But it definitely wasn’t a backhanded slap for being dumped, which some people might have inferred, he says. “It was totally a tribute to everything that got me from the seventh grade, when I started playing music, to that place, that gig.”

Conan’s words that night fully support him. A “guitar freak,” according to Jimmy, who frequently played with the band during rehearsals and loves blues and rockabilly, he opened the show by saying: “I have no idea if I’m a better comedian now than I was in 1993. But thanks to these guys, I’m definitely a better rhythm guitarist.

“I’ve been graced with the most versatile, loyal and joyously effervescent band in the history of television. To put it simply, I love these guys. Gentlemen, I want to thank you for a quarter-century of friendship, laughter and the best music I will know in this life.”

Today, several months after leaving the program, Vivino still spends plenty of time in the studio. But now he’s behind the camera, creating music for major movies during the day and performing whenever he can in a diverse group of musical settings.

The son of a gifted amateur trumpet player, Vivino grew up in Glen Rock, N.J., a few miles north of the George Washington Bridge and Manhattan. “Dad and his family came over on a boat from Italy, and their trade was carpentry,” he says. “He was a great player, but being a professional musician was out of the question.”

The first blues Jimmy heard as a child actually from Louis Armstrong, not Chicago or the Delta. “I’d look at his records and they’d be ‘Gut Bucket Blues,’ ‘Royal Garden Blues’ – for me, the connection was there first,” he says. “Like every other kid in 1964, I thought the Rolling Stones wrote ‘Little Red Rooster.’ We just did not know.”

Following in the steps of his father, he exhibited prodigious skills on the horn as a child. But he was drawn to guitar like a moth to a flame the first time he spotted a Kay Old Kraftsman bass hanging on his trumpet teacher’s wall.

“I’d stare at it and think: ‘How cool is that?’” he says, simultaneously admitting that he never got up the courage to tell his dad he didn’t want to play trumpet because he knew it’d break his heart. Instead, he borrowed instruments from friends then picked up an axe that an uncle had left in the family basement, using a shard from an old LP as a pick as he taught himself to play.

Back then, he and older siblings Floyd and Jerry were enamored with the Osmond Brothers. They took tap dance lessons and used their newfound knowledge to form a song-and-dance team. With Jimmy on trumpet, Jerry on clarinet and Floyd on piano, their first gig took place in the New Jersey Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair.

jimmy vivino photo 2By the time Vivino reached high school, he was already playing lead trumpet and arranging scores for big bands. And, after hearing Al Kooper’s work on the organ with Blood Sweat & Tears, he started teaching himself how to play keyboards, too.

His introduction to blues came through a friendship with high school classmate Brian Bisesi. “We started playing together in seventh grade,” Jimmy recalls. “We were doin’ what everybody else was doin’ at that time…tryin’ to play Doors tunes and Hendrix tunes. I was still a trumpet player back then, and ‘Killin’ Floor’ was one of the first songs we learned.”

It was 1967, and Vivino was deeply influenced by Electric Flag, whose members included the late Bloomfield and drummer Buddy Miles, as well as guitarist Nick Gravenites and bassist Harvey Brooks, both of whom have become dear friends through the years. “They were a very big revelation to me – bigger than the Beatles could ever be,” he insists.

Vivino’s path to the blues was paved by bandmate Brian’s older brother, he says. “We’d go over to his house, and Brian would start tellin’ me what Ralph told him: ‘Oh, you think the Stones wrote ‘Rooster?’ We’d put on Wolf, we’d put on Muddy, then Butterfield and Dylan.

“We got into what they now call ‘blues/Americana,’ diggin’ this other music that wasn’t psychedelic acid rock or pop music. It was almost like a secret meeting once a week.”

The first bluesmen Vivino saw live probably were Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. As time passed, however, he got to hang out with Muddy Waters because bandmate Brian had become his East Coast road manager and, as Jimmy describes him, his “spare-tire guitar player” who’d sit in when someone else failed to show up.

“Bob Margolin – (now a lifelong friend and current playing partner) — was always nice to me,” Vivino says. “And Pinetop Perkins would let me up on stage to play on top of the piano. They were all so nice. And after the show, Muddy would take the time to sit with everybody backstage, holding court – but in a really nice way, like a king or the Pope. It was wonderful.”

The most important LPs Jimmy heard during those years were Muddy’s Real Folk Blues and the trio of Vanguard’s Chicago/The Blues/Today releases, he says. “Those were really door openers. Then I started goin’ into the Wolf thing.

“Then it got deeper and deeper and deeper. I don’t think there was a record that you’d buy that didn’t have at least one great song on it. It’s like a hole…a deep canyon of stuff you can get lost in, spending hours and hours in record stores. I think all of us were doin’ that back then. I was on a rope, letting myself into this canyon of records.

“Then it was anything on Chess was somethin’ I had to have.”

At the time, Vivino didn’t realize that Chuck Berry had been a Chess artist. He discovered it after looking at one of his LPs and noticing that legendary drummer Fred Below, the creator of the classic Chicago blues rhythm pattern, was listed among the credits.

“Later on, Hubert Sumlin told me that either him or Jimmy Rogers were playin’ rhythm guitar for $35 a day on Chuck Berry records,” Jimmy notes, pointing out that “Hubert was on ‘Sweet Little Sixteen.’”

As someone who’s produced discs for Dion, Shemekia Copeland, John Sebastian, Paul Oscher, Big Bill Morganfield, Louisiana Red, Bill Perry, Son Seals, Ola Dixon, Phoebe Snow and Sumlin as well as three anniversary collections for Alligator Records and appeared on dozens of CDs himself, Vivino now understands how Willie Dixon, who produced much of the Chess catalog, worked: hiring only musicians who’d turn out records quickly without wasting precious time in the studio.

“Leonard and Phil (Chess) knew Willie could get these guys goin’,” he says, “’cause makin’ a record was different than performing.”

Later on, Vivino fell in love with the music of Jimmy Johnson, Lonnie Brooks and Johnny Copeland, listening to them 50 or 60 times in a row and discovering what was going on besides the lead vocal.

“I always try to trace things,” he says. “I know that Dylan just loves this stuff and that (Berry’s) ‘Too Much Monkey Business’ is the blueprint for ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ and that without Chicago blues, Bob doesn’t find Butterfield and Bloomfield. And he doesn’t make the album Highway 61 Revisited without Michael’s presence on it and honest Chicago blues playing throughout.

“The (Muddy) song ‘Blues Had A Baby’ is the most right-on thing,” Jimmy adds, noting the Chicago connection runs deep in Dion’s music, too.

“He’s so enamored with Lightnin’ Hopkins and Jimmy Reed — and always was,” Vivino says. “‘The Wanderer’ is nothin’ but a Jimmy Reed song in Dion’s mind. When we get together and just sit down with two guitars, all of the other history doesn’t matter. It’s all about Chicago blues.”

jimmy vivino photo 3By the time Jimmy was in his late teens, he was already making a name for himself as a B-3 player in New York City, playing at The Bottom Line nightclub in Greenwich Village, backing everyone from Jackie Wilson, The Five Satins to The Platters. A half-dozen years later, however, after working six or seven nights a week there or in other clubs with Floyd’s revue, he was ready to quit.

“When I was luggin’ the B-3 around, I always had a guitar and taught myself a few things,” he recalls. “I got so bummed out, I said: ‘I’m gonna stop playin’. I’m gonna get a guitar, and I’m gonna take some lessons.’ I was just out of it!”

Vivino moved back into his folks’ home in New Jersey. “I did some roofing for a while, some spackling and sheet rock with my father – just so he knew I wouldn’t want to do that,” he says.

He found a teacher through a family connection. His uncle Frank owned the Plaza Ballroom, a popular showroom in nearby Paterson, N.J., which featured a band that included jazz guitar legend Bucky Pizzarelli, a longtime member of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show Band.

Pizzarelli was too busy to teach him, but quickly referred Jimmy to another highly talented fret master, Joe Cinderella, a studio musician and author who worked with Billy Joel, the Beach Boys and John Cage and penned several jazz guitar instructional books.

Later on, he interned under Jack Wilkins, a jazzman who worked with Barry Manilow, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton and Jimmy McGriff, and Harry Leahey, who taught both Joe Pass and Dennis Saldone, whose students included John Coltrane.

Vivino spent his first 18 months gigging as guitarist in a four-piece band backing a comedian who performed at “mobbed up” joints in New Jersey, Florida and Las Vegas. Then he moved on to The Uncle Floyd Show, hosted by his brother, an actor whose diverse credits include the movie Good Morning Vietnam and TV’s Cosby Show and Law & Order.

Extremely popular among counterculture teens and young adults, it was a low-budget sketch comedy and live music show with puppets that aired on cable in Manhattan and over the air in New Jersey and drew a fan base that included David Bowie, Joey and Johnny Ramone and David Johansen, all of whom appeared periodically in episodes.

Away from the small screen, the show’s band – dressed in tuxedos — served as opening acts for the Ramones and other punk bands, often performing in front of celebrity studded audiences.

Vivino’s big break came in 1984, when he was dividing his time between backing up Phoebe Snow, working in brother Floyd’s review and doing gigs with them and other artists, often at his former home, The Bottom Line.

Allen Pepper, the showroom’s manager, approached him after noticing that Jimmy was responsible for putting several acts together. He was working on a musical that dealt with the life of songwriter Ellie Greenwich, and wanted Vivino to get involved.

The end result was the play Leader Of The Pack, which had a brief run in the club in 1984 before 120 dates at the Ambassador Theatre, during which Jimmy worked alongside Paul Shaffer, David Letterman’s band leader, who taught him “how to listen to a rock-‘n’-roll band from the bass and drums up” and how to be a band leader.

Around the same time, former BS&T keyboard player Kooper asked Vivino to assemble a band for his Bottom Line performances. Kooper subsequently asked Jimmy to join him, beginning what would be a 15 years as his band leader, a relationship that produced the albums Soul Of A Man and Rekooperation.

Prior to joining Conan, he formed the band The Reckless Sleepers with Jules Shear and Steve Holly, was a member of John Sebastian’s J-Band and worked in support of both Chuck Berry and Johnnie Johnson.

“I got lucky,” he says. “I never had to do a gig that wasn’t great music. I would always prefer to be remembered as a bluesman who had a really good job.”

While it’s extremely important for anyone involved in the blues to honor and cherish the folks who created it, he insists, too many folks focus their energy focused on playing things note-for-note like they hear on records.

“We can’t be Son House yellin’ at Howlin’ Wolf,” he says, referring to an incident filmed for the show Eye On, which ran on CBS in the ‘60s. Wolf was playing in a trio with Buddy Guy, Jimmy recalls, “in a wild band dressed in dashikis and wearin’ Afros, and Son’s just puttin’ ‘em down: ‘The blues is none of this monkey junk these kids today are playin’.’

“He’s goin’ right after them. Then Buddy comes on, and you can just see the music movin’ forward.

“The thing we all get hung up as students is ‘this is how it goes,’ when we really should be saying: ‘This is how it went – that one time.’ The contrast between those two performances is one of the greatest lessons in not being such a traditionalist that you want music to stand still.

“I envy the people who started learning the blues by studying the early bluesmen. It’s a lot harder to start in the middle of the tree (schooling yourself through the work of later artists) and then building right down to the root. A lot of us find that we have to do that – and we get stuck at Stevie Ray Vaughan or Buddy Guy.

“You’ve got to go even deeper – all the way down to Son House, Mississippi John Hurt and Lightnin’ Hopkins. You can spend your whole life taking the R. Crumb deck of blues musicians (the popular 36-card set entitled Heroes Of The Blues that’s still being marketed after being created in the ‘70s), goin’ into those people and buyin’ their records.

jimmy vivino photo 4“In his own way, Crumb was tryin’ to spread the word, sayin’: ‘This is a deck of cards you should all have.’ That’s some dedication to the blues.”

Vivino is no stranger when it comes to tracing blues to the roots. Sebastian has occasionally called him when he’s discovered a legend who still walks among us. That was the case in the ‘90s when Sebastian found that Yank Rachell, the country blues mandolin player, was living in Indianapolis.

“We went over there and got to know Yank,” Jimmy recalls. “The best thing I could take away from the experience was when he said: ‘You know, we weren’t musicians. We were entertainers.

“Now, everybody looks at this stuff so seriously and analyses it. We were just entertaining people.’

“They were playing for rent money, but it was all about dancing and putting on a show, Vivino says. “This music was made not to be sat down and listened to. We can see that in the pictures we see from Chicago back in the day. Everyone’s dancin’.”

That attitude continued into the ‘70s, when Vivino started working bars and showrooms. “If a club was happening,” he insists, “you were happening — because people were comin’ anyway, and there’d be three or four bands playin’. It the onus wasn’t left on the musicians.

“Now, things are different. The owner will ask: ‘How many people will you get here?’

“What’s ‘wrong’ with your club, man,” he wonders, “that people won’t come to it? Getting used to that in older age is hard for me to understand – or even explain. If people could find the joy in the music again, it would be so great – that it’s to get up and move to.”

Vivino’s lucky, he says, to be living in an area where Cadillac Zack, a young promoter, keeps the old-school vibe alive by booking blues into venues across L.A.

“But it’s few and far between now in Chicago, New York, Detroit, San Francisco even,” he notes. “I used to go there for Grant Green to the Lost And Found to the Saloon to see Johnny Nitro. There were like five joints in one block. It was a hot pocket of great players in the ‘70s and ‘80s. And in New England, there was the Cambridge scene…Paul’s Mall…man, Muddy used to play there.

“I worked with (washboard player) Fritz Richmond there and other members of the Kweskin Jug Band – Jim and (Geoff) Muldaur and those guys. That’s where Taj (Mahal) was breakin’ out.

“And you could still go up to Chicago in the ‘70s and ‘80s and find Willie Johnson, and Jody Williams until just last year. Back then, guys were really taken for granted. Willie (“Big Eyes”) Smith was drivin’ a truck, doin’ regular jobs. When I was playin’ with (Butterfield drummer) Billy Davenport, he was always doin’ some kind of other job, too.

“John Littlejohn was an auto mechanic. J.B. Hutto was working in a plumbing supply store.

“It’s funny how I used to say to Hubert – we would talk about it – how the sidemen were all of a sudden expected to be frontmen because they survived. Not all of them were really good frontmen. But we were takin’ what we could get at this point.”

Vivino uses Sumlin as an example.

“The love I have for Hubert is just like family, Jimmy says. “The thing about his playing is that it’s heart-to-hand, not bringing the head into it at all. You’ve gotta skip the thought process. Hubert would admittedly say that ‘if the band’s not good, I’m not in it’ ‘cause he was a reactive player. You couldn’t lean on him to carry the show.

“That’s the thing: A guy like Wolf could pull the worst band through a show because Wolf and his guitar alone are a show. Everything else is just gravy. There’s very few of that caliber left.

“We saw these cats, and we’re disciples in a way. We’re the kinda ‘touched-the-hem-of-his-garment’ cats. They’re people who’ve stepped out of our record collections.

“The cats were right here. Wow!”

That era’s gone, and will probably never happen again, Vivino says. But he’s sure the stars of bygone eras truly appreciated the reception they received, especially when you consider that they were performing for audiences in a world that, to them, was completely foreign to one they’d come from.

“It’s not a popular thing to talk about in a ‘politically correct’ environment, but the truth is that music should not have the boundaries of who can play it and who can’t.”

And that definitely applies to color.

jimmy vivino photo 5Like the guys who created it, he insists, “we all suffer. But the music’s also about the joy. We forget that. Everybody thinks that the blues is just about misery. But there’s happy blues, man!”

It’s this generation’s responsibility to carry the music forward as best we can, Vivino insists. But it’s also important to remember that “the black players — and African-Americans on the whole — never had the attitude that white people shouldn’t play this music.

“Charlie (Musselwhite), Elvin (Bishop) and Mark Naftalin — the guys that are still here, Bloomfield and Butterfield, they were like a curiosity in their day,” Jimmy notes. “But when they proved they could play, they were more than a curiosity.

“First, it was ‘these guys are cute.’ But then it was: ‘These cats are cats!’ They could feel that we were so interested — that we did care — that we did want to know.

“We’re so lucky to have met these people and sang and played with them. Through it all, we’ll never know how much those guys suffered, and we always have to be grateful for everything they shared.”

Vivino is especially thankful that a younger generation of blues artists are starting to make names for themselves. Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, for one, truly knocks him out.

“I was so impressed when I first saw that kid play,” he says. “I went out of my way to find out how to contact him – just to tell him that I thought it was great, what he was doin’, and to keep goin’. And this was early on, when there were only some YouTube videos of him.

“I would expect that somebody like Kingfish – he’s got roots in everything from electronica to rap to pop music and to stuff we don’t even consider – to move the music forward, too.”

Vivino also has great respect for Cedric Burnside. “Nobody knows how talented that kid is,” he says. “That family goes deep, man! And I’ve met Jarekus (Singleton). He’s kinda fusion, but there’s no doubt that everything’s in there.

“There’s all kinds of singers comin’ out, and I think that kids should gravitate back to pickin’ up instruments instead of turntables or whatever it is to make their music.”

No matter which direction Kingfish and others take, he says, it’s important to remember that the music is a living, breathing entity, not something stagnant in time.

“And I say this with all due respect to everyone,” Vivino says, “my people included: Anybody from any ethnic background can cook Italian food. But when an Italian cooks it, it’s just better. All due respect to all the great chefs of the world: When it’s in the DNA, we get a little bit extra. It’s an X factor. There’s a spiritual connection.

“If you own it, though, it doesn’t mean that we can’t do it. Me and Bob (Margolin), we’re preservationists. There’s no denying when somebody is championing something rather than co-opting it. The music’s supposed to bring us together, and we need to do it.

“It’s the easiest route. Nobody’s trying to take it away. The most inspiring thing for us is when young African-Americans get into this music – and claim it back. We’re just trying to keep it afloat. If they tell me: ‘We don’t need you,’ that’s okay because they don’t know the people that I do.”

In that light, Vivino attempts to breathe new life into Muddy, Wolf and Jimmy Reed though his work. But it’s equally important to mention Bloomfield, he says, because B.B., Albert and Freddie King would never have achieved the heights they reached if Bloomfield hadn’t insisted that Bill Graham put them onto the bill when he and Butterfield were appearing at Fillmore East in New York and Fillmore West in San Francisco.

Despite producing and appearing on dozens of other folks’ blues releases through the years, Jimmy’s own catalog as a front man is limited, but potent. His first effort came in 1997 with the modern blues CD Do What, Now? Recorded in two days without much rehearsal, the lineup featured Kooper, who produced, along with Brooks, Sebastian and Reece Wynans.

Live At The Turning Point, an old-school release that featured him in partnership with Cuban-born harp player Felix Cabrera, followed in 2009. His only other album to date is 13 Live, which was released on the Blind Pig imprint under the name Jimmy Vivino & The Black Italians, which breathed new life into a project he was involved in decades before.

“(Label founder) Jerry Del Guidice came to me to do that,” he recalls. They’d worked together previously on releases for Perry and Morganfield. “He said: ‘There is this legend that you had this band that played every Tuesday night in some little club over by the (Madison Square) Garden, and everybody’d come to play.’

“I said: ‘Yeah, man.’ Paul Oscher used to bring Bob Gaddy (a New York R&B legend) and (Wolf drummer) S.P. Leary in there. Jimmy Rogers came in there and played.

“He said: ‘You wanna make a record?’ I said: ‘That band hasn’t played in 20 years.’ He said: ‘Put it together, and I’ll record an album.’ So we did it as a one-off, and it was really fun.”

With Jimmy on guitar, piano and vocals and Cabrera on harp, the lineup consisted of Danny Louis on keys and trombone, Mike Merritt on bass, Mike Jacobson, James Wormworth and Fred Wolcott on percussion and Catherine Russell on vocals, several of whom had played with him in the band’s first incarnation.

jimmy vivino photo 6While Jimmy hasn’t released anything under his own name since, he’s been in conversations recently with Margolin about the possibility of recording either a CD or DVD that will capture their current venture, which they call the Two Guitars And 200 Stories Tour. It bears a strong resemblance to shows Vivino has performed with Sebastian, who frequently regales audiences with stories about his idol, Mississippi John Hurt, and his youth growing up in Greenwich Village exposed to him to, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Reverend Gary Davis and others.

“We came late to the party with this, but it was time for it to happen,” Jimmy says. “We sit down and tell about encounters with legends and then play their music. The older people are interested. But I’d love if younger people can get into it too because maybe they’ll have a story of their own by the end of it. Maybe they’ll say: ‘Who’s this cat, Sleepy John Estes? Lemme go check that out!’

“As a disciple, that’s what you want to do…to spread the gospel.”

He and Margolin are working the festival circuit this summer. But Vivino continues spreading the gospel in other ways, too. For the past 21 years, he and former Letterman bassist Will Lee have been members of the Fab Faux, which, he states, “is a constant reminder to people that the Beatles were the classical music of our time” and individuals not to be trivialized with wigs and suits and phony British accents bands.

He’s also been working in Los Angeles in a trio with Barry Goldberg and Chicago harp player Rob Stone, and he recently launched Bluesoul, an organ trio. And he’s deeply involved in several charity projects, including Notes For Notes, an effort sponsored by Seymour Duncan guitar pickups that enables kids to create and record music free of charge, The Boot Campaign, which promotes patriotism and provides assistance to military personnel and their families, and fundraisers for The Blues Foundation.

“Everything I’ve worked for came into fruition in a lot of ways,” he insists. “My idea of ‘retirement’ is going out to play every night. The music is the only thing that can keep you young, vibrant and valid – finding new things in the music every day, keeping it vital and spreading the word,” adding…

“The most important thing anyone should take away from any interview with us about this art form is –at the very least — go find that one record that these guys were talking about if you don’t have it.

“It’s never ‘go buy my music,’ he insists. “It’s ‘go get the music that got me to where I am.’ I didn’t build the road. It’s already there.”

Find out more about Jimmy Vivino and where he’s playing next by visiting his

Blues Blast Magazine Senior Writer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. Now based out of Charlotte, N.C., his first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

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Topeka Blues Society – Topeka, KS

The Topeka Blues Society is ecstatic to present Walter Trout as the headliner for our free Tenth Annual Spirit of Kansas Blues Festival on July 4, 2019, at beautiful Lake Shawnee just southeast of Topeka, Kansas. We are thrilled that Amanda Fish, 2019 Blues Music Award Winner for Best Emerging Artist Album; Ms. Hy-C & Fresh Start who won the 2019 International Blues Challenge; and the Dust Devil Choir, our representative at IBC this year, are also in the line-up.

The fun starts about 11:00 am and ends with a bang thanks to the Capitol Federal fireworks show at 10:00 pm. Bring your lawn chairs, stocked coolers, and shade tents, but no grills permitted in festival area. We’ll have food trucks and vendors onsite. To see the schedule and more information, please check our website and like us on FaceBook. We look forward to meeting you!

The Sacramento Blues Society – Sacramento, CA

The Sacramento Blues Society is proud to present a SUMMER SOUL-STICE PARTY with Wee Willie Walker w/special guest, Terrie Odabi and the Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra 8:00 p.m., Saturday, June 22nd at the Harris Center, 10 College Parkway, Folsom, California. For tickets: (916)-608-6888

The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for Blue Monday live performances and other shows held at the Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 7:00pm to 11:00pm. Additional information on any performer listed below is available upon request.   June 17 – Bridget Kelly Band, June 24 – The 44’s, July 1 – Eddie Turner, July 8 – Skyla Burrell Band, July 15 – John Clifton Blues Band, July 22 Scott Ellison Band.

Grand County Blues Society – Winter Park, CO

Grand County Blues Society presents the 17th Annual Blues from the Top Music Festival, at Hideaway Park in downtown Winter Park (78821 US Hwy 40, Winter Park, CO) Saturday, June 29 and Sunday, June 30. Gates open at 10am each day. This year’s 2-day lineup features Lucinda Williams, The Allman Betts Band, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Samantha Fish Band, Danielle Nicole Band, Selwyn Birchwood, Tinsley Ellis, John Nemeth & The Blue Dreamers, Jimmy Vivino + The Kate Moss 3, and a major artist to be announced in early June. Tickets/Info:

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee, IL

Shows start at 7 pm, and are open to the public. Food and Beverages available at all Friends of the Blues shows. July 16 – John Clifton Band – Manteno Sportsmen’s Club, July 30 – Frank Bang – Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, August 3 – The Nouveaux Honkies – Inside Out – Gilman IL, August 15 – Albert Castiglia – The Longbranch – L’Erable IL, November 6 – Mike Morgan & The Crawl – Kankakee Valley Boat Club. More Info at:

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