Issue 13-25 June 20, 2019

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Cover photo © 2019 Adam Hagerman

 In This Issue 

Marty Gunther has our feature interview with Nick Schnebelen. We have 10 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Bad Influence, Robert James Starr, Cal Williams Jr., Mick Clarke, Manx Marriner Mainline, Dawn Tyler Watson, Blues Caravan 2018 with Mike Zito, Vanja Sky and Bernard Allison, Kenny Parker, Doyle Bramhall II and Rick Vito.

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

 From The Editor’s Desk 

Hey Blues Fans,

We announced the 2019 Blues Blast Music Award nominees last Friday. In case you missed it click HERE to see the list now.

Voting begins on July 1 and continues until August 16 at

RESERVE THE DATE – Blues Blast Music Awards, September 13, 2019 in Rockford, Illinois. Tickets will go on sale on July 1.

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 10 

bad influesnc cd imageBad Influence – Got What You Need

Badblues Records

13 tracks

This Mid-Atlantic blues band has what it takes to be a great band. They write great new songs. They play well individually and together. They take covers and make them their own. Bad Influence is a great band with talented musicians.

Featuring two lead singers in Roger Edsall and Bob Mallardi, they offer up their talents to intrigue the listener. Esall also plays harp and slide guitar. Mallardi is the bass player except on the second original cut where Tash plays. Michael “JR” Tash is on guitars and David Thaler is on drums. Mary Shaver and Tom Swanton add vocals to the final original cut. Ray Tilkens adds his guitar on a Chuck Berry tune and organ on the title track.

Tash formed the band thirty years ago, This foursome he has now assembled has been together since 1993. It shows. These guys are together and are renowned on the East Coast as both a band and individually. They have played on stages with a variety of stars and musical dignitaries. They also hold their own as a band and deserve accolades. I’d never heard them before but became a convert by listening to this album.

The title cut “Got What You Need” is a driving cut with a great groove. A sweet original, Edsell and Mallardi deliver the vocals effectively and the stinging, tight guitar solos also sweeten the pot as does the harp solo. The trade off on vocals and nice interplay make this one a winner. “Lid Flippin’ Short” is a hopping cut that gets you dancing. Another nice original, the beat is hot and the deliver impressive. The guitar solo is cool and not overdone as Edsall slips and slides with effectiveness. The thrid of four originals follows, “Male Man.” The harp leads off the cut with some dirty blows. The song is full of puns and double entendres which make it fun. The tempo drops from the prior cut and vocals are rough-hewn and gritty. The harp is featured here and it’s another winner song and then we get a big guitar solo to make it even better.

“My Little Girl” is a James Harman tune and it is well done. Dirty vocals, nice guitar work, and a driving snare beat make this one also a winner. “Party Party” is up next, a swinging William Clarke tune with excellent harp work throughout. The har and then guitar solos are again sweet. The final original is “Nuthin’ Less Than A Dime,” another cut with a huge guitar solo and then an equally impressive harp solo. The guitar stings and harp plays with abandon as the band gives them a funky groove. Chuck Berry’s “Wee Wee Hours” takes Berry’s slow blues and turns the tempo down further into a slow and somber blues tune. It’s impressive. The vocals and guitar transform the listener with the passion and transmit sexual energy.

“Don;t You Mess With My Toot Toot” is a Rockin’ Sidney Simien cut with a nice NOLA sort of sound. The band gives it a gumbo flavor. The harp starts the solo and is followed by guitar, both offering up cool little solos. Little Walter’s “My Babe” gets a straight up cover and the boys do it well. James Brown’s “I Feel Good” gets a transformed cover with a big turn down of the tempo, making the song into a slow swing tune instead of a funky soul tune. It works and they sell it well. The guitar then harp get featured time up front and help to sell this one.

Samuel Smith’s “I Can Tell” was first covered by Bo Diddley in 1962. The band gives it a little more energy and and delivers a fine, new rendition. The guitar solo is long and well done. “Eyesight To The Blind” is a classic Willie Sonny Boy Williamson tune and Edsall blows some mean harp in his honor. Tash gets a turn on guitar, too, and show us what he can do, too. The vocals howl and the song blends into a sweet cover. Things end with “Blue Midnight,” another Little Walter tune done in memory of John “Taco” Gabral. Here the bass and then guitar intro the cut and the harp eventually comes in after they set the mood. It’s somber like Walter’s version, but offers up a little different feeling; I liked it a lot.

This is a great album and it celebrates 30 years of these guys playing together and understanding how to interact as a band. The work is tight and they know what they need to do to support each other. I’d love to hear these guys live- this CD shows us what they are made off and I bet every one of their live shows is a winner. I thoroughly enjoyed this 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 10 

robert James Starr cd imageRobert James Starr – Light A Fire With Me

Self Released

10 tracks

Born in Brooklyn and raised in the burbs of New York City, Starr comes from a musical family intent on him not being a musician. Pushing him to be an engineer and eventually getting a PhD, Starr persisted with his music and has now released a couple of blues albums. He claims his schooling was a struggle because of all the time spent practicing and playing music, but he made a career in the business world before moving to Mississippi for work in 2015. This inspired him to write and play blues music.

Starr began with a love for Southern Rock. He grew up with Jazz, R&B, Rock, Pop, 50’s Doo Wop, Gospel, and Blues NS played saxophone from fourth grade all the way through high school and played in a variety of bands in school. His earlier bands Fallen Angel and the Bobby Starr Band. focused on the rock and Christian music side of things before he released Unfinished Bizzness in 2017, his first blues album. We have this CD two years later which follows his 2018 self-titled Gospel release, expressing his love for the blues that developed from his Mississippi transplant and early influences.

Recorded in Jackson, Mississippi at 16-Bars Recording by Kevin “KJ” Jones, his band is Bill Lewis on drums, David Hopkins on bass, Bobby Collins on sax, James Bell on keys, Bud Carson on harmonica, Stephanie Luckett on vocals, Lauren Wooten also on vocals and Keith Boutwell also on harmonica. They are a cool little group and seem together and into the songs.

The CD opens with “Ain’t No Love Here,” a song about how love is lost and his women leaving him for dead with a pillow over his face. He finds a credit card receipt for a shotgun that makes him think what the title says. A blast from the gun helps t convince him. Nice piano and guitar work are featured along with harp. Things get funky with “When The Bad Man Comes for You.”The harp is out front with the vocals here, perhaps a bit much on the harp. A very solid sax solo and the guitar work throughout are great.

“Easy Livin’ Blues” follows, a cut that again features really nice sax work and Starr delivering “bad ass” blues. “Forgive Me (because I don;t know what I do)” is up next where Starr pleads for help with his ways. He goes Gospel here, looking for forgiveness. Stinging guitar is featured here, delivered with the same passion he has with his vocals. In “Uptown Barbi” we have Starr singing about a woman with uptown and upscale tastes which give him the blues. His short, blue eyed hottie drives him to having the blues. A big, solid guitar solo is featured mid song where Starr shows his stuff.

“Shame On You and Me” swings and bops and features some sax and the harp that plays throughout. this and several of the cuts. The guitar opens “Where Did My Love Go?” as Starr sings about bringing his love back to him. The backing vocalists are powerful and the guitar punctuates the song nicely. The harp again goes on and on throughout. The organ backing the guitar solo adds to the mix well.

“Jackson Mississippi” is up next, a cut that serves to show his love for the city. Starr gives us a bit of a travelogue of his favorite spots as he bounces through this one. The harp gets a big solo here. “I fell in The Delta” is a slow cut where Starr and company tells us us how he lost it to a girl in the Delta. The song builds and goes out with a flourish. Things conclude with “I Gave My Heart to a Southern Girl.” So after falling for a chick in the Delta, Starr gives us a more mid tempo cut about other women around the South he’s given his heart to.

Vocally I think the album struggles at times with Starr perhaps trying to be overly affected. He delivers his songs with passion but the vocals are a bit forced.

Starr’s having fun with his songs and singing about life. He gives it his all, playing and singing about topics he loves. The songs are all originals and the band is proficient and tight. Starr’s guitar work is solid and impressive.

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 – 3 of 10 

cal williams cd imageCal Williams Jr. – Luma

Self released

31 minutes

The nature of Australian Blues is iconoclastic, sub-category defying and deeply emotive. See the Queen of Aussie Blues Fiona Boyes, solo guitar wonder Lloyd Spiegel, C.W. Stoneking the down-under Leon Redbone (RIP Mr. Redbone) or the Chicago Blues and Soul of Rhythm X Revival. Cal Williams Jr. is a distinct and deeply personal member of this crew; singing in an unassuming tenor and accompanied by his own acoustic guitar, double bass, harmonica and mandolin. On his 10th album Luma, Williams spins a frothy atmosphere for tender stories of travel, love, loss, oppression and home.

Cal Williams Jr.’s music is sweet and soft so it is easy to dismiss it as Folk a la Joni Mitchell or James Taylor (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But, Cal is a Country Bluesman. No doubt about it. He finger picks guitar with a clear upfront tone like Blind Boy Fuller but without the bravado; like a more muscular Mississippi John Hurt. He sings with a borderline countertenor, think a slightly less falsetto Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson from Canned Heat. Although there are none of the pyrotechnics of John Hammond Jr. or the deep pocketed cool of Eric Bibb, there is unquestionably Blues grit.

Williams knows how to lay it down in a way that it sneaks up on you, due to his great talent and to his musical support. The near hypnotic consistency in the timber of his voice crashes waves of empathetic pleasantness over the listener. Long time musical partner Kory Horwood adds double bass and harmony vocals to nearly telepathic effect. Occasional additions of Will Kallinderis, harmonica and additional backing vocals, and Anthony Stewart on mandolin fit right. Each of the 10 confident and fluid performance add flavor and variety to Luma, allowing for a varied and engaging straight through listen and helping the record stand up to multiple passes.

The 5 original songs on this record sparkle and chug. They often veer off the straight ahead Blues path but are still deeply rooted saplings from the mother Blues tree. “Cannot Keep From Crying” is a propulsive boogie about loss and sadness. “Eileen” a bouncy meditation on the complexities of love and “Old Town” an up-beat Blues about the humanity of the red light district (what we here in Boston used to call the “Combat Zone”). “Redwood City,” a lush landscape piece. The solo instrumental title track “Luma” is a chromatic finger-picking workout that shows Williams’ deft skill and talent. This short guitar piece has a beautiful melody and contrasts Cal’s economical playing on other songs with complex fluidity.

The other half of Luma’s performances are covers. Classic pieces, Bukka White’s “Aberdeen Blues” and J.B. Lenoir’s “Down in Mississippi,” get the “full band” treatment (meaning simply bass, mandolin and background vocals) and these performances shine as a result. Both songs have elements of protest and commentary about the oppression people of African heritage have had to suffer in the United States. Lenoir’s lines are the most plain spoken and powerful. Daring words to be conjuring up in our modern world:

They had a huntin’ season on a rabbit

If you shoot him you went to jail

The season was always open on me

Nobody needed no bail

Luma’s closing track is a ruckus take on Furry Lewis’ “Turn Your Money Green.” This is a fittingly celebratory end to an album that could be misconstrued as being melancholy. In Williams’ voice their is weary sadness, in his playing strength balanced with meditation. However, when listened to closely, for this record benefits from active listening, the thrall and intoxication of the most celebratory Blues is alive and vibrant. “Turn You Money Green” renders the joyous side of Cal Williams Jr. visible and immediate and reflects back the joy throughout the record.

Reviewer Bucky O’Hare is a Bluesman based in Boston who spreads his brand of blues and funk all over New England. Bucky has dedicated himself to experiencing the Blues and learning its history. As a writer, Bucky has been influenced by music critics and social commentators such as Angela Davis, Peter Guralnick, Eric Nisenson, Francis Davis and Henry Louis Gates Jr.

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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 10 

mick clarke cd imageMick Clarke – Steppin’ Out

Rockfold/BGO Records

CD: 13 Songs, 48:25 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock

You’re never too old to “live the dream,” no matter what it is. Mick Clarke, from Surrey, England, proves this on his new album Steppin’ Out. Reviewers on YouTube have raved, “10 points!” (for his cover of Hank Williams’ “Honky Tonk Blues”) and “Bravooo Mike” (for Track 08 on this CD, “Watch Your Step”). He’s currently touring and headlining at the Karlshamn Baltic Festival in Sweden. Mick is a more than halfway-decent guitarist, and his vocals are gritty but a bit flat. On his latest release, he presents nine original numbers plus four covers. All are solid contemporary tracks, leaning toward the fundamental side of the genre rather than the avant-garde. Clarke’s is trucker blues, barroom blues, and live-festival blues for darn sure.

Mick has become an established name on the international touring scene and has played regularly in Europe, Asia and the USA. Praised for his fiery guitar sound, Clarke is the winner of the 2014 Artist Aloud Awards’ “Best International Act” and appeared at Sweden Rock Festival in June 2018, sharing the bill with metal legends Iron Maiden.

The Mick Clarke Band was established in the early 80s and has appeared with artists such as Rory Gallagher, Johnny Winter and Joe Bonamassa. Recent shows have included festival appearances in Italy, Belgium and India, and in July 2017, Mick appeared at the Mostar Blues & Rock festival in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Mick has released nineteen solo albums so far.

Although this is primarily a solo album, Dangerous Dave Newman guest stars on harmonica.

The following tune is not only the best one here, but showcases Clarke’s best instrumentation.

Track 03: “Nuthin’burger Blues” – In Millennial parlance, a “nuthin’burger (also spelled “nothingburger”) is a nonstarter or non-event, as in “Due to the diligence of computer scientists and technicians, Y2K turned out to be a nothingburger.” That’s why this instrumental’s title is so ironic. It starts out with some acoustic flair, with electric fire soon added. Melodic and catchy, it will make listeners tap their toes and snap their fingers. It only clocks in at three minutes and eleven seconds, but that’s perfect for a spin around the dance floor – or jumping up and down, as one’s preference may be.

UK blues veteran Mick Clarke is Steppin’ Out once again, and his guitar possesses much pizzazz!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 39 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 Blues Review – 5 of 10 

manx marriner mainline cd imageManx Marriner Mainline – Hell Bound For Heaven

Stony Plain Records

10 songs – 39 minutes

The names of Harry Manx and Steve Marriner will be well-known to many Blues Blast readers. Roots legend Harry Manx has long been acclaimed for his unique blending of blues, folk and Hindustani classical music. His official website describes his music as being a “blend of Indian folk melodies with slide guitar blues”, which, if you add in a sprinkle of gospel, is about as fair a description as any. A multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter, Steve Marriner first attracted attention as a blues harmonica prodigy in the early 2000s, which is when he first met Manx. The duo have played many gigs together over the years, but Hell Bound For Heaven is their debut recording together – and it’s a cracking little release.

Manx contributes vocals, slide guitar, banjo and Mohan Veena (a modified slide guitar, traditionally used in Indian classical music – as exemplified on the solo on the title track of this album); Marriner adds vocals, electric, acoustic, baritone and 12-string guitars, harmonica, bass, Hammond organ and drums. Additional musicians on Hell Bound For Heaven include Moe Duella on drums, Clayton Doley on Hammond organ, Jim Bowskill on violin and viola and backing vocals from The Gamblers, The Marrinaires and the Sahaja Singers. Manx and Marriner either wrote or co-wrote six of the tracks on the album, with the other four being a delicious sampling of the pair’s shared blues and gospel influences.

Manx and Marriner share the vocal duties on the album. Manx has a slightly rougher-edged voice, but both voices suit the material and mesh together perfectly. Together, they cover a wide range of blues styles, all successfully. The album opens with the slow shuffle of Manx’s “Nothing”, which highlights his rough-hewn voice as well as Marriner’s harmonica and electric guitar solos. The upbeat “Everybody Knows” and the acoustic title track move into blues-rock territory while “My Lord” is acoustic gospel that is essentially a solo showcase for Marriner on 12 string guitar and harmonica (with additional backing vocals from the Marrinaires). The banjo-led “My Only One” by contrast strays towards folk-blues.

Of the covers, the traditional “This Little Light Of Mine” is given an upbeat gospel backing with uplifting backing vocals from the Sahaja Singers and a lovely collection of solos – even a country guitar solo from Marriner. Charlie Patton’s “Rattlesnake Blues” is given a grinding, threatening, modern blues-rock treatment with neat tandem slide/harmonica licks. By contrast, the Reverend Gary Davis’ “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” is played relatively faithfully, with just 12-string guitar from Marriner and subtle slide guitar from Manx, while The Staple Singers’ “Wish I Had Answered” retains Pops’ heavily-tremolo’ed guitar but adopts a much slower groove, which really benefits the song.

Some tracks feature full-band arrangements (“Rattlesnake Blues”, “Wish I Had Answered”) while others adopt a variety of instruments. The closing track, “Rise And Fall In Love”, features just Manx’s voice, Marriner’s tremolo’ed guitar and Bowskill’s subtle viola and violin. “My Only One” has a banjo, harmonica and Doley’s Hammond organ only. Interestingly, a number of tracks have no bass at all, although it is never missed, thanks to the clever contributions of the other instruments.

Recorded primarily at Dog My Cat Studios in Saltspring Island, BC, Manx and Marriner have captured a warm, lively sound. Hell Bound For Heaven is a fine release. 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 Blues Review – 6 of 10 

dawn tyler watson cd imageDawn Tyler Watson – Mad Love

Independent release

12 Tracks/53:29

In the two years since she earned first place in the Band category at the International Blues Challenge, vocalist Dawn Tyler Watson has toured the world while maintaining an active schedule in venues across Canada. Her festival appearances have expanded her fan base as attendees are captivated by a striking voice coupled with a commanding stage presence. She was nominated for a 2017 Blues Blast Award in the Sean Costello Rising Star Award category in addition to receiving numerous Canadian Blues music awards.

On her fifth recording, Watson is reunited with the Ben Racine Band, the group that backed her at the International Blues Challenge. With a three piece horn section, this experienced aggregation packs the instrumental firepower equal to Watson’s considerable talents. That is apparent right from the start as Francois Dube lays down a thick bass line, then drummer Nicky Estor jumps in to set up a propulsive rhythm on “Alligator”. Guest Steve Marriner (MonkeyJunk) blows some sweet harp licks as the singer relates the joy she feels in her life as a road warrior.

The disc features eight other emotive original tunes from Watson, with “Feel Good To Watch You Go” being a moving break-up ballad with Watson leaving no doubt that she will endure after her man is gone. Racine answers her pain with a heartrending guitar break. “This & That” is a swinging affair as Watson preaches equality in her relationship, egged on by insistent riffing from the horn section, consisting of Mathieu “Moose” Mousseau on baritone sax, Kaven Jalbert on tenor and baritone sax, and Nicolas Boulay on trumpet. The horns also play a prominent role on “Masochistic Heart,” cushioning the singer’s desperate admission that she lacks the willpower to break free of love’s hold.

“Lost” is another dark expression of love gone bad, the eerie mood set up by lingering chords from John Sadowy on organ. There are more broken emotions to deal with on “Love To Burn,” but this time Watson is taking command, declaring the time for talk is past, now it’s time for her man to get gone. The singer celebrates her independence on a romping jaunt through “I Look Good,” confident that she has what it takes to attract more than a few possible replacement suitors. “Little Frankie” Thiffault adds his soaring tenor sax to the mix. The lost love theme continues on “Away Too Fast,” a soulful number featuring a stellar Jalbert tenor sax solo.

Of the three covers, “Don’t Make Me Mad” induces the most vivid reaction as Watson verbalizes a stern warning to remain true, the band laying down a swaggering accompaniment that drives the point home, with Alain Talbot joining on bass trombone. The mood improves with a distinctive New Orleans feel on “The Only One For Me,” as Racine shares the vocal lead for a mutual declaration of love. Weak lyrical content might have doomed the ominous “Bad Seed”. But Watson’s chilling portrayal, coupled with guest Steve Hill’s intense guitar interludes, carries the day in the end.

For the closing song, Watson shifts to a gospel-like presentation on “The River,” the combination of her voice with Liana Primerano’s ethereal tones immerses listeners in a message of uplifting reverence, complete with a twist at the end. It is a fitting ending for a project that highlights Watson’s talents as a singer and songwriter. With rousing support form the Ben Racine Band, she is once again reaching for the highest level of recognition from the international blues community. A disc well-worth a listen…….

Interviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying the sun and retirement. He is the past President of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and a member of the Board of Directors for the Blues Foundation. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!

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 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 10 

blues caravan cd imageMike Zito, Vanja Sky and Bernard Allison – Blues Caravan 2018

Ruf Records

CD: 12 Songs, 72:00 Minutes DVD: 19 Tracks, 138 Minutes

Styles: Live Album, CD and DVD Set, Contemporary Electric Blues Rock

Everyone loves a good collaboration. If “two heads are better than one” and “great minds think alike,” then when musicians tour together, magic often happens. It’s this magic that Germany’s Ruf Records has counted on, ever since 2005, in its annual Blues Caravan series. Different artists are showcased each year. In 2018, blues-rock renegade Mike Zito, newcomer Vanja Sky and the renowned Bernard Allison teamed up. The resulting CD features twelve songs and over an hour of music, while the DVD presents over two hours of live concert glory. Naturally, collectors of the BC installments won’t want to miss this one. Those of us who are new to them receive a no-holds-barred intro to two of Ruf’s superstars and a freshman on her way to becoming one. Most of the numbers on the CD and DVD are originals, with exceptions such as Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88” and Theodore R. Taylor’s “Give Me Back My Wig.”

Bernard Allison, son of the iconic Luther Allison, taught himself to play guitar while his father was busy on international tours. He displayed his earliest skills at the age of twelve, prompting Luther to buy him a Stratocaster, yet making sure Bernard stayed in school. At eighteen, Bernard debuted with his father at the 1983 Chicago Blues Festival. He soon toured with Koko Taylor’s band and furthered his skills under Johnny Winter and the late, great SRV. Mike Zito, a co-founder of the Royal Southern Brotherhood, has also done film and solo work. He started singing at the age of five. By his late teens, he’d begun his career in the St. Louis scene. Though now with Ruf, Mike made his international debut on the Eclecto Groove label. Vanja Sky saw the light of blues-rock inspiration at a local music venue near her hometown of Buzet in Croatia. Her first album, Bad Penny, is also promoted by Ruf. As her website URL states, she “.rocks”.

The ensemble consists of Mike Zito on vocals and guitar; Vanja Sky on vocals and guitar; Bernard Allison on vocals and guitar; Roger Inniss on bass; and Mario Dawson on drums.

The highlight of both the CD and the DVD is a hard-driving ditty that delighted a live crowd.

Track 05 on CD, Track 08 on DVD: “Keep Coming Back” – This one’s a zinger from Zito, featuring a growling intro reminiscent of Too Slim and the Taildraggers. On the DVD, watch Mike’s face as he concentrates on his fretwork and vocals. He’s a bluesman and he knows it, and his visage surely shows it. Too bad there are no subtitles or included lyric booklet. All the same, if you’re dancing and/or playing air guitar here, you’ll “Keep Coming Back” for more.

It’s no surprise that Allison’s and Zito’s offerings are the strongest ones on both media formats. This isn’t their first rodeo. Nevertheless, young Vanja Sky has toned good looks and melodious guitar work going for her. The purpose of a Blues Caravan is for musicians to promote one another and lift each other up. These three amigos do so with style on Ruf’s 2018 release.

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 39 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 Blues Review – 8 of 10 

kenny Parker cd imageKenny Parker – Hellfire

Rock-a-While Records 001

12 songs – 60 minutes

Kenny Parker is one of those rare front men who leaves the singing to others, supporting himself with an assemblage of world-class bandmates. That’s the case here for the guitarist/bassist and songwriter who penned all 11 studio cuts on this album.

A native of Albion in south-central Michigan, Parker formed his first band, the Esquires, at age 14 and fell in love with the blues after discovering the recordings of Albert and B.B. King. An Eastern Michigan University graduate, he worked in a Cadillac factory by day and played music at night after graduation. He’s been a fixture in the Detroit blues scene since the ‘80s, first in the company of Mr. Bo, the Mississippi-born guitarist best known for the tune “If Trouble Was Money,” and later during a lengthy stint with the Butler Twins, longtime Motor City headliners.

Kenny followed the Butlers by signing on with Britain’s JSP Records in the mid-‘90s. His first album, Raise The Dead, included contributions from the twins, Ronnie Earl and Anson Funderburgh harp player Darrell Nulisch and first-call keyboard player Bill Heid, whose career has included work with everyone from Alberta Adams, Koko Taylor and Fenton Robinson, among many others.

Heid returns on this one, splitting keyboard duties with Leonard Moon and Chris Codish. Also joining the action for half of the 12 cuts is Jim McCarty, the veteran guitarist who’s been a key member of three supergroups: Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels, the Buddy Miles Express and Chicago’s legendary Siegel-Schwall Blues Band.

Powerfully handling the vocals throughout on this one and making his debut as a featured artist is Dan Devins, a melismatic baritone and Windy City-style harp player. Rounding out the sound are bassist Mike Marshall, percussionist Dave Marcaccio and Brian Miller, who assumes harp duties for one cut.

The medium-paced shuffle, “I’ve Got My Eye On You,” a song of desire, swings from the jump to open with Parker and McCarty sharing six-string duties and Devins’ harp cutting like a knife for fills. The tempo picks up slightly for “Baby Come Back To Me,” which gives Parker space to shine, before a slow-blues pleaser, “Blind And Paralyzed,” the realization that the singer would prefer the handicaps rather than catch his lady with another guy.

Apparently, that’s the case. “Bye Bye Baby,” the uptempo rocker that follows, describes the woman as a party girl who’s never at home and who never announces where she’s going – cause enough to bid her farewell for good. A tasty guitar hook opens the title tune, “Hellfire,” which paints an aural picture of a head-turning, redheaded beauty named Ruby “who’s got the stuff you only find on the cover of a magazine.” But don’t get too close because “you soul’s gonna burn, baby, burn.”

The straight-ahead blues, “Goin’ In Circles,” deals with a troubled romance before “Dance With Me,” a rapid-fire rocker, urges a lady to join the singer on the floor. “I’m Missing You,” a heartrending ballad, follows before the percussive “But Then We Danced” questions if the woman still harbors romantic feelings. No wonder the singer’s “Half Crazy” and realizes he’s now her “Back Up Plan,” the two tunes that follow. The disc closes with a balls-to-the-wall version of Omar & The Howlers’ “Hard Times In The Land Of Plenty,” which was captured at The Gem Theater in St. Louis, Mich., and is the only live cut in the set.

Available through Amazon, Apple Music and other online retailers, this disc doesn’t cut much new ground, but the tunes are fun and the musicianship excellent throughout. If your tastes are old-school, there’s plenty here for you to enjoy.

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 – 9 of 10 

doyle bramhall cd imageDoyle Bramhall II – Shades

Provogue – 2018

12 tracks; 56 minutes

Doyle Bramhall II’s latest album features eleven Doyle originals co-written with a number of partners, including Akie Bermiss, Adam Minkoff, Althea Grace, Gabby Sherba, Andrew Trube, Elizabath Ziman and Norah Jones; the single cover is a re-working of a Bob Dylan song. Doyle handles much of the guitar work but also turns his hand to bass, piano, resonator and oud, alongside keyboard players Akie Bermiss, Elizabeth Ziman, Todd Caldwell, Michael Harris, Charlie Sexton and Adam Minkoff (who also covers bass on a few tracks, alongside Ted Pecchio and Byron Isaacs), drummers Carla Azur, Anthony Cole, Ed Miles, Yuval Lion and Steve Jordan.

Star guests include Norah Jones, Eric Clapton and the Tedeschi Trucks Band (of which more later). Doyle produced the album, sharing production duties on two tracks which were recorded at different studios, most of the album having been made in Brooklyn, NY.

Most of this album could be categorized as modern rock music with opener “Love And Pain” having Doyle’s skittering guitar break set against his own multi-tracked backing vocals, two bass lines, lots of keys and downbeat drums and “Hammer Ring” following a similar pattern with the oud giving an Eastern feel. “Everything You Need” is a melodic tune enlivened by Doyle’s sometime boss Eric Clapton’s guest turn on guitar and “London To Tokyo” adds strings and horns to another love song.

Guests feature on the next two tunes: Norah Jones wrote and shares vocals with Doyle on the attractive ballad “Searching For Love” where Doyle also plays some very pretty guitar; “Live Forever” was recorded in Austin, Texas, with The Greyhounds (Andrew Trube and Anthony Farrell) and is a rocking tune with a good hook on the chorus, co-produced by Doyle and Andrew.

“Break Apart To Mend” is a fine ballad which Doyle sings very well over lots of bass and synthesizer sounds through which Elizabeth’s piano breaks through impressively; “She’ll Come Around” has a smaller band and an insistent rhythm and “The Night” is a mid-paced tune with another good hook and a choir of backing vocalists including co-writer Althea Grace. “Parvanah” has a haunting lyric about lost love with strings and hand percussion giving an Eastern/Arabic feel and Doyle playing some strangely distorted guitar before “Consciousness”, an interesting song with intriguing lyrics: “I want all to be free, tethered minds to the sea, lowly hearts open wide to the slow coming tide. Consciousness is riding on my tail”. The song starts in acoustic mode but builds with horns adding to the overall feeling that this makes a good album closer.

However, Doyle has an additional trick up his sleeve. He frequently collaborates with the Tedeschi Trucks Band and here combines with the full power of TTB on a superb version of Dylan’s “Going Going Gone”, a fine and rather forgotten song from his 1973 Planet Waves album. Doyle sings lead with Susan, the backing vocalists and the horns setting up a great guitar section where Doyle’s lead meets Derek’s slide in majestic flow – not blues but outstanding.

There is little or no blues here but several good songs if readers’ tastes range outside the blues field.

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 – 10 of 10 

rick vito cd imageRick Vito – Soulshaker

Vizztone Label Group – 2019

12 tracks; 46 minutes

Rick Vito is probably best remembered for the striking slide solo on Bob Seger’s “Like A Rock” and for his tenure in Fleetwood Mac between 1987-1991. However, Rick also has nine solo albums to his name and was nominated for a Grammy in 2010 for his part in The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band’s Blue Again. On this album Rick wrote all but two songs (one with assistance from Steve Moos), handles the vocals, played all guitars and most bass and keys. Charles Harrison handles bass on two tracks, Mark Horwitz and Kevin McKendree play organ on three tracks; drums are by Charles ‘Mojo’ Johnson, Rick Reed replacing him on three cuts.

Throughout Rick’s slide work is to the fore, opening track “She’s Just Too Fine” having plenty of his individual style, a barrelling tune that moves along really well. Rick puts lots of echo on his vocal on moody ballad “I’ve Got A Secret” and really ups the tempo on the rocker “I Do Believe”, driven by drummer Rick Reed and organist Mark Horwitz. “World On Fire” paints a dark picture where “fires keep burning and children keep dying, Rick making a plea to God to send “more love to this world on fire”, played to a classic blues-rock riff with lots of slide accents. The first cover is “Doggin’ Around”, a 1960 B-side by Jackie Wilson, written by Lena Agree; Kevin McKendree’s organ provides a warm framework for Rick’s sinuous slide work on this instrumental version. Next up is a terrific rock and roll piece entitled “Dancin’ Little Sister” which sounds amazing, especially as it’s just Rick and drummer Charles!

Things get more serious on some of the remaining tracks, starting with the co-write with Steve Moos, “The Ball And Chain”, a stripped-back number with swampy rhythms and eerie slide that suit the relatively ‘heavy’ lyrics: “now there’s blood on the sun, tears on the moon, you know you’ll never be a free man soon. With blues in your soul, there’s your heart’s refrain and you know you’ll never leave the ball and chain.” After that rather dour song the upbeat gospel fervor of “I’m Going To Heaven” livens things up as Rick professes his faith over a raucous handclap and slide tune. The title track is another instrumental with multiple slide guitar parts before “Walking Shoes” which borrows the rhythm associated with modern re-workings of “Walking Blues” though the lyrics ponder how the Devil can tempt you, as he tempted Adam, a strong track with excellent guitar. In “Promise Land” Rick pledges to keep faith with his nearest and dearest as he walks through life towards that promised land, the track also demonstrating that Rick is as potent a slide player in acoustic mode as he is in electric. The album closes with a fine instrumental take on Sam Cooke’s immortal “A Change Is Gonna Come”.

Rick Vito is certainly one of the premier slide players around and demonstrates his skills well here on an album that has a lot to commend it.

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 Interview – Nick Schnebelen 

Since moving out of the cotton fields a century ago, the blues world has had more than its share of royal families. Perhaps the first were the Mississippi Sheiks — brothers Bo Carter and Sam and Lonnie Chatmon, all stars in their own right – in the ‘30s. And the family trees of Raful Neal, R.L. Burnside, Carey Bell and others all bear fruit of seeds planted decades ago.

The connection to Kenny Neal and his huge family, Lurrie and Steve Bell and Cedric Burnside are easily apparent. But similar roots run deep in other, not so easily apparent families, too.

Kansas City-based guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Nick Schnebelen’s clan is a great example. Blues fans would have to have been living in a cave for the past decade not to have recognized the impact he and his siblings – sister Danielle and brother Kris – made with their family band, Trampled Under Foot (TUF), since exploding on the scene at the 2008 International Blues Challenge.

But few people are aware the trio carry on a family musical tradition that goes back into the 1800s, much like the blues itself.

TUF disbanded in 2016 except for special family reunions in 2016 after a 12-year run. Since going solo, both Danielle and Nick have become stars in their own right. The reigning Blues Music Association (BMA) bass player of the year, Danielle made the most immediate impression. Her latest CD, Cry No More, was a 2019 Grammy nominee for contemporary blues album of the year.

And Nick’s been winning over fans, too. A proven road warrior, his latest release, Crazy All By Myself – his third release on the VizzTone label – has been soaring near the top of the charts.

Blues Blast caught up with him in late May, when Schnebelen was relaxing oceanfront in Venice Beach, Calif. He was nearing the end of a three-week trip that took his band up and down the West Coast, a tour he launched after barely catching his breath after spending two weeks crisscrossing Europe with Sugaray Rayford, Albert Castiglia, Jimi Bott and Willie J. Campbell in an event billed as The Blues Giants tour.

Despite the grueling schedule, Nick insists: “It’s really fun — and really exciting — to play music and do what I love.”

It’s no wonder when you consider his heritage.

“It runs in the genes,” Schnebelen insists. “Music’s been in my blood for generations. I think it picks you rather than you pickin’ it.”

There wasn’t a time in his life when the thought of getting a job that would provide a regular income or going to college to pursue what most folks would consider a “normal” career ever crossed his mind.

“My great-grandfather and great-grandmother were in the same string band in K.C. in the 1920s, Silver String Sextet,” Nick says. “That’s on my dad’s side. He played guitar and mandolin, and she played guitar. They had a radio show, and I still have her guitar and his mandolin.

Nick Schnebelen photo 1“On my mom’s side, my grandmother, Evelyn Skinner – she passed away when my mom was a teenager — had her own big band and got to sing with Count Basie and be a part of the Kansas City music scene in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Before that, the family had several violinists who were popular in Eastern Europe.

“We feel it’s our job as a family. And like every other musical family, we have a dynasty that we want to nurture.

“It’s just cool to bring joy to people – makin’ people happy. I knew when I made that decision that it wasn’t ‘I want to do it’ and be lazy about it. I had to jump right in.”

Nick was born in the City Of Fountains on Sept. 30, 1978, and both his parents – Bob and Lisa — were professional musicians. Their band, Little Eva And The Works, played in blues clubs, honky tonks, jazz clubs and at festivals across the Midwest. Like their children, they competed in regional competition for the IBCs, but never made it all the way to Memphis for the finals.

A man who had a large record collection and whose tastes ran to the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, Bob fell in love with the blues shortly before Nick did. “He took a real turn toward it when I was 10,” Nick recalls. “We started listenin’ to Muddy Waters and Johnny Winter records – anything he produced for Muddy. After that, he started diving in.

“Of course, this was all before the internet, so finding this music wasn’t easy. Now, you can pull up everything Son House ever did and see videos of him doing it. That was really hard footage to find in the ‘90s when you were growin’ up.”

Fortunately for all the Schnebelens, they were living in a city where the blues was woven into the musical fabric shortly after moving off the plantation. Kansas City was where both Pete Johnson and Big Joe Turner perfected jump blues in the ‘40s. Before becoming a jazz innovator, Charlie Parker cut his teeth on the music. And the city also produced legendary vocalist Julia Lee and pianist/bandleader Jay McShann.

All of them had joined the big band in the sky by the time Nick was old enough to go out to listen and eventually play. “But what was really cool about the ‘80s and ‘90s,” he says, “was that we had some other old cats who could really play. Little Hatch (who led the house band at the Grand Emporium Saloon) was a fabulous harp player, and he embodied that old stuff. Lawrence Wright was another one. And King Alex.

“These guys weren’t famous people, but they were the real thing. To get up there and perform with those guys was something very special. Kansas City’s got so much music goin’ on that there’s a jam goin’ on every night of the week somewhere. Growin’ up, I was at jams three or four nights a week, just tryin’ to get better.”

Schnebelen picked up the guitar at a young age, but it proved to be a challenge.

“I knew I was gonna be a musician when I was still in school,” he says. “My dad was a guitarist, and, once in a while, he’d come home from a gig and the guitar would be layin’ around and I’d start playin’ on it. He was right handed, so I learned how to play upside down.

“He always wanted me to learn how to play right-handed because he said I’d have a lot easier time finding guitars. But I just couldn’t do it.

“It wasn’t because I didn’t want to. He’d just put it in my hands and I’d go: ‘Nah,’ flip it over and say: ‘There it is!’”

Young Schnebelen blossomed when he was accepted to Kansas City’s Paseo Academy Of Performing Arts high school, where he studied classical in the mornings and jazz in the afternoons before going out at night to play blues with his dad.

He received what he terms “basically a college education about how all music works.” But before he enrolled, admissions officers insisted: “You’re going to have to learn how to play the guitar strung correctly.”

“I said to myself: ‘Okay, now it’s time to make the switch,’” Nick recalls. “I spent the whole summer playing with the guitar strung correctly for a lefty.”

Fortunately, he says, “it came right into place.”

Today, he notes, he can still play a guitar tuned for a righty upside down, but now he strings his axes properly for a lefty because, as a fingerpicker, “it’s all shapes, and it’s just too difficult to do it the other way.”

As a youngster, Schnebelen’s early influences came from Winter, Jimi Hendrix, Robin Trower, Steve Miller, George Thorogood and James Brown.

“I still liked Johnny’s style,” Nick says. “He kinda messed around with the guitar, but you can tell he took it seriously enough that he had these excellent chops. He was very witty.

“Sometimes I wonder: ‘Why did you play that?’ Now, I realize it’s because he’s havin’ fun. After spending years building my own style, I know that from experience. You get to a point where you start taking things away and stripping things down, making it more basic. It makes everything else sound better.

“Today, I like to hear four notes. Three notes, that’s cool. It just levels everybody. You can pull a lot more out of that than crammin’ a whole lot of notes together. It’s a tension-and-release thing.

“You play all these notes, a real crazy thing. You set it up – and then you play…four notes. Bam!”

Another personal favorite guitarist is Albert Collins.

“I got that from my dad,” Nick says. “Sometimes guitar players will get into a total box, staying in the same certain area on the neck, and it kinda gets old. But Albert Collins was high and outside.

Nick Schnebelen photo 2“I try to stay high and outside, too. I’m getting better at it, but it takes a long time. When you bend really sharp, high notes like he did, you gotta do it just right.”

Immediately after graduation in 1997 – two years before losing his father, Nick moved to Philadelphia and started playing professionally. He formed K-Floor, a blues-based jam band – the name derived from Howlin’ Wolf’s tune, “Killin’ Floor.”

“We started out with songs that were deeply rooted in blues and funk – you could hear it. But then we’d take a left turn, go somewhere else and then come back to it,” he says. “Within a year, we were playin’ all the big clubs in New York and festivals in Philly. We became part of that scene really quick because they didn’t have a lot of blues there.”

While other bands might have set up a base in Memphis, he says, the decision to relocate to the Keystone State was a definite advantage. K-Floor to stand out faster because of less competition.

One of Nick’s biggest blessings during that period was the chance to open for Winter, the news of which brought joy to his father a short time before he passed.

After touring regularly and appearing at South By Southwest in Austin three times, others in the group wanted to go in other directions. “We were all buddies, but there were a couple of members who decided they wanted to do something different,” Schnebelen says. For one, keyboard player Justin DiFebbo wanted to settle down, raise a family and get a day job.

“He’s done it – and crushed it,” Nick says. “Now, he’s back to playing again. But that’s okay because that’s life.”

Looking back, however, the timing for Nick – and TUF – probably couldn’t have been better. After talking about it for years, the siblings finally decided to bring their family band into fruition in 2004.

“I said: ‘Okay. But if we’re gonna do it, we’re gonna do it!” Nick recalls. “But I’m not movin’ to Kansas City. You move out here to Philly or New York, and I’ll get you into all these clubs I’ve been playing. Then we’ll move home.’”

When Danielle and Kris joined him in the City Of Brotherly Love, Nick was playing indie rock in a unit called Buddahead. Not to be confused with the Los Angeles-based blues band fronted by BB Chung King, this group was formed by Iranian-born Raman Kia in England, where he’d first emigrated before coming to America and after leaving his war-torn homeland.

“It was Brit pop,” Nick says now. “He was a totally different singer/songwriter…kinda sad. But it was cool…people loved it.”

Signed to Sanctuary Records and booked by the William Morris Agency, Buddahead toured frequently for the two years he was with them. The legendary Clive Davis produced one of their albums, and Nick gained experience about recording by spending so much time with them in the studio – something that’s come in handy in his later work as a blues artist.

Schnebelen left the group after a tour in 2005, and TUF quickly started making an impression throughout the Northeast, building a loyal fan base as they played by clubs, festivals and events for various radio stations. “Things went well,” he says, “but we were a new band, and any new band will have their time period of growth.”

The siblings’ self-titled debut album was released in 2006, followed by The Philadelphia Sessions in 2007 and May I Be Excused a year later. Their popularity exploded after they returned to Kansas City.

“But it wasn’t like one period ended and the other began,” Schnebelen notes. “What I created in Philly was a spot for us to keep coming back to. I made a trail, and we went back and forth all the time.”

Nick knew good things were just over the horizon when they opened a show for Tommy Castro at the Blues Station in in Columbus, Ohio. Back in Missouri, they quickly developed a following across the entire Midwest, something that worked to their advantage at the IBCs in 2008.

“We had a lot of people who went to Memphis to see us be a part of this experience,” Schnebelen recalls. “So we had a nice groundswell of support. I’m really thankful for that. I don’t think we realized what we were getting ourselves into.

“Maybe we did — but not how far it was going to go — and we’re really grateful.”

Not only did they take home top honors, but Nick captured the Albert King Award in the process, which recognized him as the best guitarist in the competition – an amazing feat considering the quality of the hundreds of musicians who take the stage there annually.

“Only 20 or 30 of us have ever won that prize,” Schnebelen notes. “Sean Carney and Jonn Del Toro Richardson passed the award off to me, and I passed it off to J.P. Soars. We’re all a band of brothers.”

TUF released three more albums — Live At Notodden Blues Festival in 2010, Wrong Side Of The Blues in 2011 and Badlands in 2013. TUF won Band Of The Year in both the 2011 and 2012 Blues Blast Music Awards.

They went out on top as Badlands soared to the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s blues charts, earned the trio 2014 BMA contemporary album of the year honors and a nomination as band of the year. And Danielle also was nabbed the organization’s bass player of the year.

After 12 years together, the siblings went their separate ways in 2016, reuniting occasionally for a few special reunions. As Nick and Danielle launched solo careers, Kris joined Sean Chambers and others on the road. More recently he’s settled down in Kansas City, working locally and currently awaiting the birth of his first child, a daughter who’s due in July.

Looking back today, Nick says, it was simply time for TUF to make the break. Early in their careers together, he notes, someone had suggested that he and his sister form their own bands on the side as a way of protecting their individual images while working in the family band.

If they’d gone in that direction back then, he realizes now, the transition to what they’re doing now might have been easier.

“But the horse was already runnin’, and we kept runnin’ it until it was tired,” he says. “We probably could have put it in the stable for a while, done a couple of things and then come back for it.”

Delivering a blend of styles that range from Delta to modern blues, rock and more, Schnebelen has been on the roster of the VizzTone label since 2016, beginning his stay with two CDs captured before live audiences in Kansas City. But his first studio album – Crazy All By Myself, which debuted last March – has taken his career to new heights altogether as it became a fixture on the blues-rock charts.

Nick Schnebelen photo 3Produced by percussionist Tony Braunagel, it features major contributions from keyboard player Mike Finnigan and guitarist Johnny Lee Schell — members of Tony’s bandmates in Phantom Blues Band, the unit that does double duty as the Taj Mahal Band – and guest appearances from UK guitar wizard Davy Knowles and harmonica giant Jason Ricci.

“I just hired the best people, the best team I could,” Schnebelen says. “It took us a while to get it done…to write it and plan it. There’s a lot of heartache and pain there, but I also wanted to get a funny edge to it, too, for an upbeat, positive side to kinda balance that out.”

Nick went solo when it came to songwriting for his first two CDs, an approach he changed for this one. “It used to be that, once I had the core of the song, I wanted to see the whole thing through,” he says. “Then you work with a producer, and he says: ‘You’ve got a good song, but you just need to make this or that better.’

“On this last record, I decided to work with different songwriters to get different points of view. I’ve been working with (Grammy winner) Gary Nicholson, Jeff Paris and Dave Duncan, and all of them can take my good ideas and make them great.

“That’s what’s important to me. It’s been really neat to collaborate. I’m enjoying seeing the personalities of the songwriters.

“Dave Duncan and I write upbeat, positive, fun, rockin’ blues songs. Gary Nicholson and I write some lowdown blues. And Jeff Paris and I write emotional, soul-driven songs.”

The combination was so satisfying, Schnebelen says, he’s well underway for a follow-up, which will include much of the same roster in the creative process and studio.

“My goal is to continue to write and create new styles for the blues,” Nick insists. “I want to stand out as an original artist. I’m playin’ for myself, and I’m playin’ for my two daughters – and, of course, all my fans and friends. It’s just somethin’ I gotta do.”

Is there another generation of Schnebelen musicians on the horizon?

“My oldest daughter, she’s 12, is playing violin and piano,” he says, “but I don’t cram it down her throat. She just does what she wants to do.

“She’s been playing violin for three or four years and has got great tone. And instead of making her take piano lessons, I have one in my living room. There’s two rules: No toys on the piano, which is primarily for the four-year-old, and no piano when people are sleeping. Other than that, she can play whatever she wants.

“I was in Des Moines, Iowa, and had got up to leave from a nice hotel, and there was a piano in the lobby. She Facetimed me and started teaching me how to play ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’…’It’s like this, dad…it’s like this!’

“But I got her a guitar, and she’s like ‘…No!’

“Maybe one of these days, though, I’ll come home and she’ll be strummin’ on the acoustic. One way or the other, it’s hanging there on the wall. I think that’s the way to get ‘em to play it!”

Meanwhile, Schnebelen’s touring relentlessly with his regular band. Drummer Adam Hagerman and bassist Cliff Moore have been holding down the bottom for the past three years. The band also included Heather Newman for a while prior to her capturing both the Sean Costello Rising Star Award and Best New Artist Debut at the 2018 Blues Blast Music Awards and now features newcomer Jay Davidson who doubles on sax and keys.

“I love bringing quality musicians with me and bring the best I can for everybody,” Nick insists. “I just want everybody to know how much I care about ‘em and appreciate their loyalty, and I will always strive for the best.

“I’m just thankful to have such a great band. They’re kickin’ butt, and I’m really proud of ‘em.”

They’ll be accompanying him throughout the summer as they crisscross the country. Nick will also be serving as resident guitarist at the Big Blues Bender in Las Vegas in September. But they’ll be back at his side for another European tour in the fall and on board Holland America’s Ms. Nieuw Statendam when he sails on his 14th Legendary Rhythm And Blues Cruise in January.

Check out Nick’s music and find out where he’ll be playing next by visiting his website:

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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The Contemporary Art Center – Peoria, IL

The Contemporary Art Center at 305 SW Water St., Peoria, Illinois, presents the 5th Annual Harmonica Invitational Friday, June 28th at 5:30PM for a special 3-hour Live at the Five Spot event featuring harmonica by Tony Holiday, Rockin’ Billy and Brian Stear.

Tony’s latest album release, Tony Holiday’s Porch Sessions is nominated for Best Live Blues Recording in the 12th Blues Blast Music Awards. Tony is recognized by legends like Charlie Musselwhite and Rick Estrin as one of the finest harp players right now.

Also featuring two of Central Illinois greatest harmonica players, Rockin Billy and Brian Stear. They will be backed up by the blues/rock band JuJu Jonny. William Gress, aka Rockin’ Billy, has been performing for audiences with his band Rockin’ Billy & the Rhythm Riot for many years. Brian Stear has a style that’s uniquely his own! Brian brings his “musical mojo” to the microphone as a performer who has played in Grammy artist Koko Taylor’s band, the Blues Machines and with many local favorites.

Admission $12-nonmember, $ or 309-674-6822

Crossroads Blues Society – Rockford, IL

Crossroads Blues Society summer schedule. Shows at the Burpee Museum in Rockford Free 5:30-8:30 PM, VIP Seating and Parking $15. June 19th: John Nemeth, June 26th: Steepwater Band & Wheatbread Johnson Blues School 4:30 PM, July 3rd: Grand Groove Hotel& Joe Filisko Harmonica Workshop 4:30 PM, July 10th: Ivy Ford Band, July 17th: Kevin “B.F” Burt & Wheatbread Johnson 4:30 PM, July 24th: Ghost Town Blues Band, July 31st: Dave Keller Trio & Wheatbread Johnson 4:30 PM

Shows at the Hope and Anchor in Loves Park $5 cover, 8 to 11:30 PM. 7/13/19 Ivy Ford Band. Shows at the Lyran Society in Rockford to 10 pm no cover! – 6/21/19 Steve Ditzell, 7/19/19 Wheatbread Johnson, 8/16/19 Brother Dave Kaye

Crossroads Blues Festival is Saturday, August 24th at Lyran Park, Rockford – Blues Disciples, Chris O’Leary Band, Westside Andy with Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Altar Boys, 6 PM: Nick Moss Band with Dennis Gruenling, John Primer, Joe Filisko harp workshop, Wheatbread Johnson, Justin “Boots” Gates and our own Rick Hein and Bill Graw!

North Central Florida Blues Society – Gainesville, FL

The North Central Florida Blues Society has announced that Blues Music Award nominee Mac Arnold & Plate Full O’ Blues will play a June 22 show at the High Dive (210 SW 2nd Ave) from 8-12 pm.

The event also includes 2019 International Blues Challenge semifinalist Sheba the Mississippi Queen and The Bluesmen. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $8 for members of the North Central Florida Blues Society. See for more details.

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 24 – The 44’s, July 1 – Rooster Alley, July 8 – Skyla Burrell Band, July 15 – John Clifton, July 22 – Scott Ellison Band, July 29 – Murali Coryell, Aug 5 – Polly O’Keary and the Rhythm Method, Aug 12 – Laurie Morvan Band, Aug 19 – Jonny T-Bird & the MP’s, Aug 26 – Chris O’Leary 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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