Issue 13-29 July 18, 2019

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Cover photo © 2019 Bob Kieser

 In This Issue 

Don Wilcock has our feature interview with Ronnie Earl. We have 10 Blues reviews for you this week including two blues related books and new music from Ross Osteen Band, Johnny & Jaalene, Johnny Shines, Colin Linden & Luther Dickinson with the Tennessee Valentines, Bob Corritore & Friends, Arlen Roth, Billy Hector and The Sieve & The Saddle.

Our featured video this week is Sean Costello. We have Part III of the photos from the Chicago Blues Fest. We have the latest in Blues society news. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!

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 Blues Blast Music Awards Tickets 

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Tickets for the Blues Blast Music Awards show on September 13, 2019 in Rockford, Illinois are on sale. The presale price is $35 and $40 at the door. Save money by getting your tickets NOW HERE!

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 Blues Wanderings 

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It was a LONG drive to Pennsylvania to the Briggs Farm Blues Fest but some major talent made it worth the drive. We got to hear Southern Avenue’s Tierinii Jackson, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Cedric Burnside, Clarence Spady and more. We will have full photo coverage of all the fun in an upcoming issue.

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 Featured Video Of The Week – Sean Costello 

We chose this video because of a question this week from a reader in Japan about the Sean Costello Rising Star Award asking why it is named so and who Sean Costello was. So I though it was a good time to talk about Sean Costello again and this video is a good place for folks to get a taste of Sean’s talents. Many of our readers know of Costello. He truly was a rising star in the Blues world! Sean first came to prominence at 18 playing lead guitar on Susan Tedeschi’s huge 1998 album Just Won’t Burn. Costello’s band later toured as Tedeschi’s backing group for some time. Sean had released his first solo album, Call The Cops prior to that at the age of 16. He continued his solo career after the release of Just Won’t Burn.

In February of 2008 Sean released his We Can Get Together album. It was his fifth solo album, the first with the dynamic new label Delta Groove Records. Costello was in demand and working steady and the album was rising on the charts. His big break it appeared had finally arrived. Then tragically Sean Costello died in his Atlanta hotel room on April 15, 2008, one day before his 29th birthday. It was later determined he died of an accidental drug overdose, caused by the toxicity of heroin, chlordiazepoxide, ephedrine and amphetamine.

Posthumously, Costello’s family revealed that he had suffered from bipolar disorder, and set up the Sean Costello Memorial Fund for Bipolar Research in his honor.

We call our award the Sean Costello Rising Star Award in his memory and to help focus attention to bipolar disorder in musicians. Our cover story on Ronnie Earl in this issue talks about Ronnie’s battle with bipolar disorder. Debbie Costello Smith and Glenn Smith, Sean’s parents, often come to the Blues Blast Award ceremonies to present the award.

This video is Sean’s last performance at The Living Room on 3-9-06 in NYC. It is the entire set he played that night. Enjoy! Check out Sean’s Music. There are 8 albums. Warning, once you get one, you are gonna want them all!

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 Featured Interview – Ronnie Earl 

ronnie earl photo 1Veteran blues guitarist Ronnie Earl was born Ronald Horvath on March 10, 1953 in Queens, New York. He is the son of Jerry Akos Horvath and Rose Horvath, both Holocaust survivors. They both passed away in 2014. He released the album Father’s Day in his dad’s honor in 2015.

Ronnie took the last name Earl in honor of slide guitarist Earl Hooker in 1971 because Muddy Waters couldn’t remember his name when he’d call the young budding guitarist up on stage. After graduating from Boston University Earl would hang with Muddy and Kings Albert and B.B. at the Jazz Record Mart in Boston. Asked how that experience turned his head, he replies, “I don’t know if I can find the words. It was being baptized, having a rebirth (pause) – the heaviest feeling I ever had.”

Ronnie Earl is first and foremost an iconic blues guitarist, but he’s also a survivor, just as assuredly as his parents. He has bipolar disorder and diabetes, both of which can play havoc on emotions fundamental to the blues muse. Perhaps ironically, the combination of the two disorders can be toxic while at the same time spurring a creative edge.

“I was reluctant for a longtime to say anything about it. It’s still stigmatized, but I feel more comfortable talking about it. It gives me something to look forward to when I have a concert. It gives me hope and positive energy.”

To make matters even more challenging, he’s a recovering alcoholic 30 years sober and considers Stevie Ray Vaughan “a powerful example” in convincing him to come clean.

“Stevie would come and play with me all the time when we were in the same town, and we were very good friends. I knew him before he got famous, and I knew him when he was famous. He was the same person, even more beautiful when he had gotten clean and sober, and I was still using. He was clean at a time we played together. He was a big sign post for me saying, “Hey, I’m clean and sober. He didn’t say anything to me, but he was a powerful example. He was a beautiful human being. I miss him.”

One of the most unassuming and humble blues geniuses in the business, Earl calls himself semi-retired. Be that as it may, he all but stole the show at the Blues Music Awards this year and on August 30th releases a signature 26th album, Beyond The Blue Door.

“I’ve slowed down a lot, and I’m 66. I don’t really have a career anymore. I’m not pursuing a career, just a love, a passion. I live in the country, and I play once or twice a month, tops. And so, my wife comes with me probably 50% of the time. Most of the time I play around the east coast, and I come home after the show.”

In reality, Earl was neither retired nor retiring in his 2019 Blues Music Awards performance. He was one of scores of today’s top artists contributing to marathon six-hour extravaganza in front of an audience of thousands of industry heavyweights, each having little more than 10 minutes to capture the moment. Earl did it with a version of Jr. Wells’ “In The Wee Hours,” first recorded in 1965 on Wells’ game changing Delmark classic Hoodoo Man Blues album. Earl himself recorded the song on his 2014 Good News album.

ronnie earl photo 2He’s not sure whether he likes his live version or his recording of the song better. “Oh, I don’t know. One was live, very inspired, but I love the one I recorded, too. Let’s just say I was very inspired. Very inspired.” Earl has played with both Jr. Wells and Buddy Guy throughout his storied 40-some-year career.

In finally choosing “In The Wee Hours,” he created a perfect showcase for artists he felt should be given notice at this premier event. “I talked to a bunch of guitarists who weren’t going to play at the show, and I felt for them, you know? I said, ‘Well, you’re going to come and play for me since you weren’t asked to play at the show.’ I felt bad that they’d come all that way, and that they didn’t get a chance to play, so they played with me.”

His presentation sucked the air out of the Cook Convention Center. His smooth and lilting guitar silenced the constant buzz of the crowd that often competes with the performances. It was as if everyone realized they were experiencing a transcendent moment in blues history.

One by one, three other guitarists on stage with him took more than a thousand people into Earl’s smoky, transcendent journey. Two of the guitarists have a long history of playing with Earl, Peter Ward and Nicholas Tabarias whose been with Earl for four years. The third was Laura Chavez, a BMA nominee in the Guitar Instrumentalist category and former Candye Kane lead guitarist. Dave Limina, a regular in Earl’s Broadcasters band for 18 years played the Hammond B3. His credits include the Mighty Sam McCain and Michelle Willson. Paul Kochanski with the band for two and a half years played bass and Forrest Padgett handled drums. But it was Broadcasters vocalist Diane Blue who influenced Ronnie Earl to pick the Jr. Wells classic for this particular occasion.

“I wanted to make sure I could get Diane up there, because she came such a long way from Boston, and I felt most of the people were familiar with me already, but that they didn’t hear Diane, so I wanted her to be featured on that song, too.”

“I changed my mind about 20 times. We were gonna do a Magic Sam tune, but we decided to do a song that would include Diane’s beautiful singing, and I had the other guitarists up to give all a little taste.”

Dianne Blue first appeared on The Broadcasters’ Just for Today album singing the Etta James classic “I’d Rather Go Blind” and became the first fulltime female member of the band in 2014 on Good News.

“It’s a spiritual thing,” says Earl, looking back on the BMA show. “I bring the band way down and not play a lot of notes. And not loud. Just bringing the audience into the mix at a spiritual level like a church kind of thing. Blues is very spiritual. It comes from the church. I really believe that, and it moves people. I never thought about it as the devil’s music, never in those kinds of terms. To me, it doesn’t apply to music.”

Earl plays frequently at the First Baptist Church in Littleton Massachusetts. “The material world is the Grammys,” he told me in 2015, “and the spiritual world is playing heart to heart for the sake of healing souls and bringing people together. It doesn’t have anything to do with sales and getting further in career and career moves and all that stuff. I’m just very optimistic and try to be positive in all my affairs. Everybody was very nice to me from everyone I worked with and saw and from Big Mama Thornton to Eddie Cleanhead Vincent and everybody in between, all the people I got to play with, and I believe that blues can be very happy music, and very, very deep and spiritual, and it’s very connected with gospel and very connected with jazz. I believe in all of that.”

ronnie earl photo 3Earl’s acceptance speech at the 2014 Blues Music Awards for Best Guitarist says a lot about his humble spirituality: “Yeah, oh my goodness. I might cry. I’m a very sentimental man. You know I’m only here by the grace of God. My greatest achievement in life is that I’m clean and sober for 25 years. (Loud applause).

And I wouldn’t be here and I’d like to thank my record company ’cause he (Holger Petersen at Stony Plain) is more than a record company. You know I was sick for a long time with bi-polar disorder, and I say that to you because it’s not something that needs to be stigmatized anymore. (Applause)

“The love of the blues community and my wife, my (folks?) healed me, and I’m here tonight because I’m better. I’m actually happy. I’m a happy man. (Applause)And I want to thank my brother Anson Funderburgh because we came up together, and I love him so much. Anson, I love you, and I love all the other nominees. Music is not sports, and all the guitar players, blues musicians, I love you all, and I want to thank Bob Margolin who took me in when I was a very young man, taught me and introduced me to Muddy Waters, and he’s a beautiful person and one of my teachers. You know I come from Otis Rush. I come from the land of Otis Rush. He’s like – him and Hubert (Sumlin) and Robert Jr. (Lockwood), they’re my teachers, and I’m very moved. I’m just very moved, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart and soul. Thank you! (thunderous applause)”

The agony and ecstasy of the creative process is brought into acute focus in artists whose medical issues become emotional triggers that activate the creative muse. Bipolar disorder and diabetes are both diseases that cause broad mood swings. Together, they have the potential of turning the host into an emotional rollercoaster. But isn’t that what much of blues is about, tension and release, emotional upheaval and catharsis? Raw emotion is fundamental to the genre’s definition. Becoming a blues artist is an obvious career choice for anyone with those issues seeking a creative release.

The process of exorcising such fluid emotions through music becomes therapy. And in its highest form, the music that results offers a catharsis to both the artist and the fan. Ronnie Earl’s genius is refined and focused by an awe-inspiring 45-year career with the crème de la crème of blues giants, but it’s also an example of someone whose diabetes and bipolar conditions activate and accentuate his muse with exceptional results.

Earl bought his first guitar, a Martin, in 1973 and traded it in the next day for a Fender Stratocaster. Two years later he graduated Boston University with a degree in education and special education. His first professional gigs were with Otis Rush and Big Walter Horton in ’75, when he made two trips on a Greyhound to Chicago to check out that scene with Koko Taylor. “She took me to all the blues clubs, and it was dangerous. I mean she took me to see Jr. Wells and The Aces, Louis Myers and Sammy Lawhorn. She was like my mother.”

He recorded first in 1979 with Sunnyland Slim and joined the 10-piece Roomful of Blues for a nine-year tenure. While still with Roomful of Blues, Ronnie recorded with vocalist Kim Wilson, Darrell Nulisch and Sugar Ray Norcia, releasing Smokin in 1983 and They Call Me Mr. Earl for Black Top Records. Kim Wilson remains a close friend today and appears on the new Beyond The Blue Door CD.

“I love Kim. He’s my brother, and so is Bob Margolin, and they came before me, and I love honoring people who came before me. I met Kim in ’75 in Boston. Then I went to Texas in ’78 and lived with him for a while. So that was pretty amazing. He’s just the most incredible harmonica player, him and Little Walter and Big Walter, that I’ve ever heard in my life, and he’s such a great singer and songwriter. He’s my brother. I’d loved him even if he didn’t pay. He’s been so nice and kind to me, and that goes a lot further than anything else.”

Earl has recorded several albums with various iterations of The Broadcasters beginning in 1988 including Father’s Day dedicated to his dad, the year after he died and Maxwell Street, a nod to Chicago’s Maxwell Street, once the gathering place for Sunday morning jams and to the late David Maxwell, Earl’s soul brother.

ronnie earl photo 4“He was my brother, my big brother, 10 years ago to the day older than me, and I just loved him so much. He was my favorite piano player, but of course Dave (LaMeana) and I love Anthony Gerasi and I love Bruce Katz, but David was huge, and we had a very strong sense of it. We played on each other’s records, and when he passed away, I felt I wanted to do some kind of tribute to him. I miss him. Every day I think about him.”

Beyond The Blue Door is a 15-cut tour de force album, seven of them originals. In spite of a 5-piece core Broadcasters band and 10 special guests including such high-profile roots artists as David Bromberg and Kim Wilson, the leather and lace arrangements are delicate without ever being light.

“I feel like a lot of the musicians today, it’s too many notes, and that’s not a criticism. It’s an observation for me because I learned how to play less notes and to bring it down and that was a big thing for me to learn.” The album demonstrates the cache of a master. Without ever stepping on the other musicians, he weaves through these songs with a brain surgeon’s precision.

The standout cut is “A Soul That’s Been Abused,” an original you-done-me-wrong song featuring three saxophones (Mario Perret, Scott Shetler and Greg Piccolo). David Bromberg in the liner notes says, ‘“A Soul That’s Been Abused’ is one of Ronnie’s songs. Diane sings it soulfully; Ronnie plays beautiful solos and fills as does Greg Piccolo. There’s a great bit of conversation between Ronnie and Greg before the last vocal.”

Kim Wilson plays harp and sings on Howlin’ Wolf’s “Baby How Long” and on “Blues with a Feeling” that will take you back to the Butterfield version on his first album.

There’s a Dylan cover of “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” with David Bromberg on acoustic guitar and vocals. “Wolf Song,” Ronnie Earl’s homage to Howlin’ Wolf with guitar, recalls Hubert Sumlin on “Smokestack Lighting.”

On his website, Earl says, “To all my friends throughout the world, I thank you deeply from my heart for all your love and all the prayers that you have shown me. Due to God’s miracle and grace, I am free from my depression. I love all of you and may God bless and keep you!”

To me in 2015 he said, “To me there’s no white or African American. And Duke Ellington said, ‘There’s only two kinds of music, good and bad,’ and that’s what I believe. I’m not really in the blues world. You know, I live in the country, and I listen to a lot of different kinds of music, and like I said, I love Joni Mitchell, and I love Jimmy Cliff and anything that has soul I can feel, and so I’m not in the blues world. I’m not in any kind of career mode or – I just play, and that’s kinda how I look at things.”

At the end of our 2019 interview he said, “I’m sensing your love and I can’t wait to read the story.”

Visit Ronnie’s website at

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 10 

ross osteen bandRoss Osteen Band – Williwaw


CD: 10 Songs, 41:00 Minutes

Styles: Guitar Monster Blues, Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, All Original Songs

As any artist will tell you (including myself), creation is hard work. Sometimes it’s so strenuous that in the process of making something others will enjoy, artists forget to enjoy themselves. Not the Ross Osteen Band from North Carolina. On their third album, Williwaw, guitarist and vocalist Osteen, drummer Patrick Gaynor, and bassist Jim Vint let themselves loose and have an absolute blast. On ten original tracks, they bring guitar-roaring fun to the blues, not giving a darn about vocal techno-tricks or slick studio production. Keeping things simple is a plus. A minus is that in focusing almost exclusively on guitar, other musical aspects like lyrics and backup instrumentation aren’t as memorable. Nevertheless, their energy and spirits are stratosphere-high. Osteen’s voice, reminiscent of John Fogerty’s, would be great at belting “Fortunate Son.”

Born in western North Carolina, Ross developed his style from an eclectic mix ranging from bluegrass to rock. He’s played shows with blues notables such as Jimmy Thackery, Kim Wilson, and Buddy Guy (the band even has a July gig at Buddy Guy’s Legends). The trio’s driving pulse, however, is drummer Patrick Gaynor, who grew up in New York. He was seduced by the Southern rock of the Allman Brothers. After teaming up with compatriot Jim Vint, the rest is history. Jim had never known Patrick before the band’s formation in 2014, and this bassist holds their sound together solidly. In the five years since then, they’ve been making a surefire splash.

The following song contains an intro that shows just how much Osteen’s guitar shines.

Track 07: “Willie G” – Ross channels John Fogerty most clearly here, his angst and passion as he sings, “I ain’t worried ‘bout what anybody believe.” Even Millennials will call his shredder intro and solos “fire” (just “fire,” not “on fire”). Even though this song runs three minutes and forty-eight seconds, it seems shorter, with more of a punch. When Osteen says that his hero Willie G has “got the whole crowd jumping,” that’s a sign Osteen himself should play it before live audiences as much as possible.

Williwaw is loud, proud, and will please a crowd!

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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 2019 Chicago Blues Fest – Part III 

The last day of the Chicago Blues Fest was an amazing event with great music and artists. We started out again at the Crossroads stage to hear a great harmonica player and musician Omar Coleman.

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Next was Melvin Taylor & The Slack Band. Melvin used to live in Chicago but has not really played much in the US for the last few years so it was a treat to see and hear him.

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On the Visit Mississippi Stage we first caught a set by RL Boyce. He had Lightnin’ Malcomb sitting in on guitar with him.

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Then it was a set by Jarekus Singleton. Jarekus had Grady Champion sitting in on harp for an extra special treat.

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Back at the Crossroads Stage Toronzo Cannon was tearin’ it up!

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Next we finished up our day at the Crossroads stage with a set by the great Roomful Of Blues Band. Nice!

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Back on the Visit Mississippi stage Zac Harmon was wowing the crowd with a blistering set of soulful blues.

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The Frontporch stage had some great acts on Sunday too including Ivy Ford.

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Also on the Frontporch stage we heard 2019 Blues Blast Music Award nominee and harmonica player Russ Green! Check him out if you get the chance.

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The Park Grill Stage Sunday started off with Chicago Bound Blues Band.

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They were followed by Rick King’s Royal Hustle.

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Tom Holland and the Shuffle Kings finished out the day at the Park Grill Stage.

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The headliners on the main stage Sunday started off with Larkin Poe, an American roots rock band from Atlanta, GA fronted by sisters Rebecca Lovell and Megan Lovell.

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Next up was Mike Welch and the Connection. Mike was finishing up the last of the festivals booked for him and the late Michael Ledbetter some time ago before Ledbetter’s tragic sudden death in January of this year. It was an emotional set because Chicago is still suffering the loss of their favorite son. Andy Duncanson of the Kilborn Alley Blues Band took on the singing duties and some amazing music was heard! It was a sad but joyous celebration in memory of Michael Ledbetter.

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The final performer of the 2019 Chicago Blues Fest was Ruthie Foster. It does not get any better than that!

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If you have never been to the Chicago Blues Fest you need to make plans to do it. This is REAL blues and one of the best Blues festivals of the world! GET THERE!

Commentary by Bob Kieser. Photos by Lorena Jastreb & Bob Kieser as marked.

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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 10 

holly maxwell cd imageHolle Thee Maxwell & David A. Kozin – Freebase Ain’t Free

Grace Printing

198 pages

From a young age, Holly Maxwell was encouraged by her mother to sing, recognizing her child’s talent when the two sang gospel hymns at home. Her mother also sang opera, so Maxwell received plenty of classical training that lead to an appearance at the Civic Opera House in Chicago at twelve years of age. Her education continued through graduation from Roosevelt University and the Julliard School of Music. But she was destined for a different path.

One night while watching television, Maxwell was captivated by an appearance of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. Later her mother played an album by the legendary jazz organist, Jimmy Smith. Maxwell was equally smitten, vowing to her mother that she would one day sing with both musicians.

Dreams have a way of coming true. Telling her story, Maxwell leads us along a winding path as her career steadily builds until she finds herself sitting at the bar in at Smith’s Supper Club in North Hollywood one minute, then standing on stage without invitation to sing with Smith and his band. Her performance immediately got her a request to join the group as the vocalist. At home in the early morning, savoring her good fortune, Maxwell receives a call from a friend saying they need a singer at the recording studio. Maxwell only wants to go to bed, until her friend discloses that the request came from none other than Ike Turner.

It took several hours of bus rides to get to Bolic Sound Studios in Inglewood, California, Turner’s private studio. Maxwell arrived a nervous wreck, hardly believing that she was going to meet Turner. Once she calmed down, she impressed him with her focus on singing, not letting herself get distracted by anything else, despite the musician’s repeated attempts at enticements of various natures. In short order, Maxwell is again hired as singer.

The rest of the book describes Maxwell’s wild ride as Turner’s friend, trusted associate, and closest ally. Turner would hole up in the studio for weeks on end, fueled by drugs, alcohol, and a rotating cast of musicians and hanger-ons hoping to be part of the scene. With Turner’s blessing, Maxwell handled the money, paid bills, and tried to maintain some semblance of order. At one point, she appoints herself the “orgy supervisor,” with Turner paying her to make sure his woman weren’t stealing from him. When the studio burned down in 1982, Turner began a downward spiral that would have left him destitute had it not been for some astute investments.

Maxwell repeatedly takes great exception to the portrayal of Turner in the press, and particularly in the movie, “What’s Love Got To Do With It”. Her view is that Turner was a musical genius with a kind heart, especially for Maxwell and her mother. She offers a different viewpoint of Ike’s relationship with Tina, one that shifts the blame off of his shoulders. The book makes it clear that she is fiercely protective of the legacy of the man she knew so intimately, a fact born out by multiple pages filled with letters and notes that Turner sent Maxwell while in prison on drug charges.

As to her own story, Maxwell doesn’t shy away from some of the sordid details including abuse by her step-father, getting forcibly injected with heroin, blackballed early in her career for refusing sexual advances, and astonishingly charged with abusing her mother in the days leading up to Turner’s passing. But her spirit remained strong, allowing her to share her voice from Chicago clubs to venues around the world. It is quite a life, one that makes for a very compelling read.

Reviewer 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 – 3 of 10 

Johnny & Jaalene album imageJohnny & Jaalene – Johnny & Jaalene

Rip Cat Records – 2019

12 tracks; 36 minutes

Johnny Ramos made his recording debut on his father’s Old School release last year, handling vocals on a couple of songs and here Kid repays the favour by playing guitar and assembling a great band of So-Cal musicians to back his son and singing partner Jaalene DeLeon on a selection of 50’s and 60’s music that takes in rockabilly, doo-wop, soul and Tex Mex. There are no original songs here but the band and singers seem to enjoy themselves across the dozen selections. Johnny and Jaalene share the vocals, Kid Ramos and Tommy Harkenrider are on guitars, Brent Harding on bass and Kip Dapps on drums; Ron Dziubla adds sax to three tracks and accordionist Jesus Cuevas helps to create the Chicano feel on four cuts.

If you’re looking to recreate iconic teen music of the 60’s where better to start than with a Phil Spector tune? The choice is “Baby I Love You” (Spector, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich), a monster hit for The Ronettes back in 1963 and the two teenagers do a good job. Jaalene in particular sounds great on what was once Ronnie Spector’s vocal feature, the band sounding very good, if not quite the ‘wall of sound’. Next up is Carla Thomas’ ‘Gee Whiz’, sung angelically by Jaalene with trembling guitar behind her before Johnny responds with a burst of rock and roll on Eddie Cochran’s ‘Teenage Cutie’ the band creating a jangly, echoey sound that really nails the early Rn’R feel. Back in the 60’s it was quite common for songwriters to adapt foreign language songs (check out Dusty Springfield’s repertoire) and Gilbert Bécaud’s “Je t’appartiens” was translated from French into English as “Let It Be Me” and became a huge hit for The Everly Brothers. Johnny and Jaalene’s take on it is a quiet version with just guitar for most of the song. In contrast Etta James’ “Good Lookin’” stomps along with Ron Dziubla’s exuberant sax added to the core band, a solo vocal feature for Jaalene. The next three songs all feature the accordion: “Los Chucos Suaves” (Lalo Guerrero) has plenty of acoustic guitar as Johnny sings it in Spanish and evokes the border cantina pretty well to these ears; the 1960 Rosie & The Originals hit “Angel Baby” is sung by Jaalene in a high register giving an ethereal quality to the song which has a nice sax solo in the middle; Texan Doug Sahm wrote “Why Why Why” and Johnny sings it in heart-wrenching style, Ron’s sax again adding to the track.

Jaalene is back on vocals for a frenetic version of Jesse Mae Robinson’s “Let’s Have A Party”, quintessential rock and roll with a lively guitar solo that really evokes the period, appropriately all contained within 2.36, as was often the case back in the day. Brian and Jim Feli’s “Please Give Me Something” is a real obscurity which a bit of research discovered was originally a hit for Bill Allen & The Back Beats in 1958 and has subsequently been covered seven times though not by a name that this reviewer recognized! Johnny sings it, his vocals rather lost in the mix though the twin guitars sound great. A second song in Spanish is “Cuando Calienta El Sol”, a 1962 record from Los Hermanos Rigual, written by brothers Carlos and Mario, here sung wistfully by Jaalene who also breaks into English with “every beat of your heart”. The album closes with what may just be the best track, a rousing version of “One Summer Night”, a 1958 song written by Danny Webb for his doo-wop group The Danleers; it became their only hit but sold over a million copies! Great vocals from both Johnny and Jaalene, fine accordion and guitar work, extremely catchy.

Not really a blues record but good fun and very evocative of that period of teenage innocence in the late 50’s/early 60’s. Both these young singers have great potential and it will be interesting to see where their careers go next.

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 – 4 of 10 

johnny shines cd imageJohnny Shines – The Blues Came Falling Down

Nighthawk/Omnivore Recordings OVCD-328

20 songs – 120 minutes

Born near Memphis in 1915 and one of the most important yet under-recorded artists who bridged the gap from country to urban blues, Johnny Shines lives again with this never-before-released live concert set that was captured in 1973 when his skills were as sharp as a razor.

Shines spent part of his youth touring with Robert Johnson before launching a career that included extensive work with Robert Jr. Lockwood, Mississippi Fred McDowell and other early stars. In his adult years – after relocating to Chicago in 1941 and being “rediscovered” at a concert headlined by Howlin’ Wolf, he performed and recorded with Big Walter Horton, James Cotton, Willie Dixon, Sugar Blue and Kent DuChaine.

And his final album, the 1991 Blind Pig release, Back To The Country – which was issued a year before his passing, captured a W.C. Handy Award and featured contributions from Johnny Nicholas and Snooky Pryor. He was also featured that year in the documentary, The Search For Robert Johnson. One of the most talented finger-picking guitarists of his era and a man with a beautiful, powerful and melismatic tenor singing voice, Shines left us in 1992, the same year he was inducted into the Blues Hall Of Fame.

Shines’ early work appears on several of the most important blues labels in existence during his lifetime, including Biograph, Testament and Blue Horizon, and his later albums were released by Rounder and others. But both Columbia — in the ‘40s — and Chess and J.O.B. — in the ‘50s – invited him into their studios but never issued his work on vinyl.

The same holds true for this set, which was recorded at Washington University by St. Louis-based Nighthawk Records, a label that issued several blues compilations and one Henry Townsend album before abandoning blues altogether for reggae in 1980. Fortunately for blues lovers, however, Omnivore Entertainment Group acquired the Nighthawk catalog in 2017. Like Townsend’s Mule, which preceded it, this is an exceptionally well-remastered time capsule of a musician at the very top of his game.

Johnny’s solo and acoustic for the first 12 and final five cuts of this concert. He’s accompanied on guitar for the other three tunes by Nighthawk co-founder Leroy Jodie Pierson, who also contributed the liner notes for this release.

Shines opens with the dazzling instrumental, “Big Boy Boogie,” engaging the audience by talking over his playing and recounting how he’d first heard it in his childhood and remembering the impact it had on the folks who’d heard it back then. When he finishes, the audience’s response is nothing short of explosive. Most of the material that follows comes from his own catalog, which is interspersed by four tunes from Johnson, one from Hammie Nixon and Sleepy John Estes and another from Willie Johnson.

The slow blues, “Seems Like A Million Years,” begins with several masterful and understated guitar runs before his pyrotechnic singing voice hits like an A-bomb for the first time. The slide instrumental “Cold In Hand Blues” follows after a tuning change before Johnson’s “Kind Hearted Woman Blues” and his own masterpiece, “Have You Ever Loved A Woman.” The hits keep coming with “Stay High All Day Long,” “I’m A Steady Rollin’ Man” and “Stand By Me” – a gospel tinged original not to be confused with the Sam Cooke number of the same name – and continue with “Happy Home” and “Someday Baby Blues.”

The second half of the performance is equally as impressive, beginning with “They’re Red Hot (Hot Tamales)” then “You’re The One I Love,” “Sweet Home Chicago,” “The Blues Came Falling Down” and “Big Star Falling” before a finishing run that includes “Tell Me Mama,” “Ramblin’,” “It’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” “Goodbye Boogie” and “How Do You Want Your Rollin’ Done.”

If you have a warm spot in your heart for traditional acoustic blues, you’ll absolutely love this CD. The sound quality is so good that you can almost feel Johnny Young’s breath between verses. It’s an absolute shame that his concert went unreleased for 46 years, and it’s a true blessing that we’re able to enjoy it now. It’s both a surprise and a treasure!

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 – 5 of 10 

Colin Linden & Luther Dickinson album imageColin Linden & Luther Dickinson with the Tennessee Valentines – Amour

Stony Plain Records

10 songs – 45 minutes

Well, this is a lovely treat. Both Colin Linden and Luther Dickinson are well-known in roots/Americana circles (Linden through his work with Blackie and the Rodeo Kings or on ABC’s TV show “Nashville” and Dickinson via the North Mississippi Allstars and the Black Crowes). I is a collection of classic love songs from the broader Americana songbook, featuring a superb backing band, a variety of guest singers, all played with rare sensitivity and emotional depth.

Linden and Dickinson handle a variety of electric and acoustic guitars and dobros across the album. The Tennessee Valentines provide glorious instrumental backing. Featuring Dominic Davis on bass, Bryan Owings on drums, Fats Kaplin on violin and accordion and Kevin McKendree on piano and organ, the band takes a song like “Crazy Arms” (Ray Price’s first number one hit, in 1956) and gives it one almighty shot in the arm.

Listeners will recognize many of the songs on the album, but they are all played with such verve, novel arrangements and – yes – love, that it is like hearing them for the first time. So the closing track “I Forgot To Remember To Forget” has an almost whispered vocal from Jonathan Jackson floating over airy, spaced-out slide guitars. Chuck Willis’s “What Am I Living For” becomes a desperate lament with a beautiful vocal performance from Ruby Amanfu and outstanding organ from McKendree. Bo Diddley’s “Dearest Darling” is re-imagined as an upbeat hill country blues with a raucous vocal from Linden.

Billy Swann wrote the rock and roll classic “Lover Please” in 1962. On Amour, released 57 years later, he still sings it with a strong country cadence but Kaplin’s accordion gives the song a distinctly Cajun flavor. Meanwhile, Jimmy Reed’s “Honest I Do” features heavily vibrato’ed guitar and a vocal performance from Rachael Davis that nods towards Reed’s own slightly nasally tone but also unpicks the deep angst of the original.

The album features two recordings of the traditional folk song, “Careless Love”. One features Davis’s pure country vocals, while the opening track on the album is an instrumental version, featuring for the first two minutes the entwined slide guitars of Linden and Dickinson only, before the band slowly and subtly joins in.

The early rock and roll of Jesse Stone’s “Don’t Let Go” is given a rollicking slide guitar treatment with exuberant gospel-style backing vocals from Davis and Amanfu. The laughter on the slightly messy fade-out only adds to the joyous sense of fun captured on the recording.

Amour was recorded at Blackbird Studios in Nashville, and Linden has captured a warm, organic sound that suits the music perfectly. There is a real sense throughout the album that the musicians were really enjoying themselves when recording it.

Amour features some blues, some country, some folk and is all Americana. It’s a strikingly timeless recording and a perfect soundtrack for lovers and romantics everywhere. Absolutely glorious 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.

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 10 

joel harper book imageJoel Harper & Gary Kelley – Frankie Finds The Blues

Freedom Three Publishing

40 pages

If you are looking for a way to get your younger children or grandchildren interested in blues music, the short book might just be the ticket. Author Joel Harper is a teacher with an abiding interest in music and instruments from around the world. He has channeled that knowledge into tale of a young African-American boy, Frankie, who goes to a blues concert with his grandmother, somewhat grudgingly as he is a self-proclaimed hip hop fan. But he is entranced by the guitar player’s finger-picking, which his grandmother explains to him, along with a brief history of the music’s origins. The young man is surprised to learn that hip hop music traces its roots back to the blues.

Full of excitement, Frankie uncovers his old guitar and begins to practice, learning again that the study of an instrument is hard work. The difference is that this attempt comes with a newly-found drive to succeed. That vision helps Frankie to ignore the teasing taunts of his friends. A chance encounter at a neighborhood park connects the boy to a local man who plays real-deal blues guitar. After calming his mother’s concerns, Frankie begins an apprenticeship with Walter that finds him fulfilling his dream.

Harper’s story line moves quickly through time without much detail. But Gary Kelley’s illustrations do a wonderful job of adding color and detail to the plot, making the characters real and believable, particularly the drawings of Frankie or Walter with their guitars. Also included are two pages with nine small portraits on each honoring masters like Robert Johnson, Son House, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf, to jazz icons Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and a nod to Chuck D, the leader of the rap group Public Enemy. Other pages feature quotes from Willie Dixon and Bo Diddley.

The foreword was written by Taj Mahal, who addresses the question of the current state of blues music. His comments find him encouraged by worldwide acceptance of the music, and a growing interest in exploring the physical locations where the music originated. He ends his remarks by stating how much a story like this would have meant to him as a young man. Similar sentiments are expressed on the back of the book jacket by an impressive group consisting of Bonnie Raitt, Mavis Staples, Keb’ Mo’, Charlie Musselwhite, and Barbara Newman, CEO of the Blues Foundation.

Consider this book to be an extension of the ongoing efforts to educate the nation’s youth through Blues In The Schools programs, with the learning done through reading rather than listening. Picture yourself reading to the the young people in your life, sharing the love of music. And if you buy a copy of the book, get a second one to donate to your local library or elementary school. The world will be a better place……….

Reviewer 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 

bob corritore album imageBob Corritore & Friends – Do The Hip-Shake Baby!

Vizztone Label Group

13 Tracks/49:26

To say Bob Corritore has friends is understating reality by quite a bit. Recorded over three years, from a total of eight different recording sessions, this collection features close to forty musical acquaintances along with Corritore, who is at the center of everything as usual, blowing fine harmonica accompaniment at every turn. Something of a blues renaissance man, Corritore has a long-running radio program, is a noted producer, and runs the Rhythm Room, a notable blues club in Phoenix, Arizona. Listeners can count on any project he spearheads to be loaded with sounds from some of the finest purveyors of the electric blues tradition.

One look at the credits lets you know that you will be treated to an A-list team, starting with Alabama Mike (Michael Benjamin), who’s energetic style enlivens four tracks. “Gonna Tell Your Mother” is a jumping number while “Few More Days” traces back to early rock & roll records, with Corritore offering a homage to Lazy Lester in his solo. On Asie Payton’s “Worried Blues,” and especially “Stand By Me,” the singer conjures up images of Sam Cooke, his voice so sweet and soulful.

Other highlights come from Sugaray Rayford, recipient of the 2019 Blues Music Award in the Soul Blues Male Artist category, unleashing his powerful voice on “Trying To Make A Living,” his intensity matched by Junior Watson’s impeccable guitar work. Closing out the disc, his uses his original, “Keep The Lord On With You,” as a seven-plus minute testimonial that once again takes us to that dark place where the spiritual and secular elements of life battle for the upper-hand, enveloped by Corritore’s mournful tones and the ministrations of Kid Ramos and Johnny Main on guitar.

Jimmy Reed’s “Bitter Seed” is a fine fit for Oscar Wilson, lead singer for the Cash Box Kings. He uses his deep, rich tone to convey the plight of a man in the throes of unrequited love, with the leader adding some excellent first position harp licks. The ageless wonder, Henry Gray, shows that he can still bring it vocally and on piano on a jaunty rendition of “The Twist”. Corritore has done two albums with John Primer, so it isn’t surprising to find one track from the Chicago guitarist and singer included, “Love Deep As The Ocean,” written by his former bandleader, Muddy Waters. The duo’s deep respect for the music is evident in every note of this standout track. The Fremonts, with singer Mighty Joe Milsap out front, take over on two Slim Harpo tunes, “Shake Your Hips” and “Keep What I Got,” while Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry serves up plenty of heartache with a tale of a cheating man on the smoldering original, “You Better Slow Done”. Corritore’s hearty blowing on “I Got The World In A Jug” makes the track another highlight, with Jimi “Primetime” Smith on lead vocal and guitar, with Fred Kaplan’s rousing fills on piano a constant delight.

Other contributions include the Andy T Band with Anson Funderburgh on two tracks. Johnny Rapp adds guitar on six tracks and L.A. Jones makes one appearance. The bass guitar is covered by Bob Stroger, Adrianna Marie, Kedar Roy, Troy Sandow, Nathan James, Blake Watson, Doug Swanson, and Tony Tomlinson. The drum chair is shared by Alan West, Jim Klingler, Brian Fahey, Marty Dodson, Malachi Johnson, June Core, and Rene Beavers. Other keyboard contributions are courtesy of Larry Van Loon and Bob Welsh.

With so many players involved over numerous sessions, one might wonder if this project really holds up as more than just some disparate tracks thrown together in a rush to get another product out in the marketplace. Anyone who recognizes the majority of contributors knows that all of these players live this music, always playing it with the utmost respect and reverence, yet adding their own interpretations with plenty of individual flair. Bob Corritore is the ringleader, ensuring that the end result is another blue-chip collection that resonates through repeated listens. Look for this one to garner plenty of attention come award nomination time!

Reviewer 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 – 8 of 10 

areln roth album imageArlen Roth – Tele Masters

Aquinnah Records

1 hour, 15 minutes

The Fender Telecaster guitar is the first widely available and viable solid body guitar. First sold by Leo Fender in 1950 as the Esquire, then the Broadcaster and finally in 1951 as the Telecaster. The Tele, as it is known, with its clean crystal clear tone and versatility is iconic and used in every type of music. Arlen Roth’s newest guitar summit record Tele Masters is a homage to some of the past and present Tele six shooters and as such is an important and historic entry into the oeuvre of guitar-centric recordings.

Arlen Roth is a guitar player’s guitar player. The creator of the widely popular and influential Hot Licks series of instructional videos and a prolific guitar journalist, Roth has spent his career not only adventuring through the world of guitar music but also teaching others by spreading the gospel.Tele Masters continues a line of all-star collaborative concept records from Toolin’ Around (1994), Toolin’ Around Woodstock (2007), and Slide Guitar Summit (2015). The goal here for Roth and Buddy Guy producer/drummer Tom Hambridge (showing his wide versatility) is to feature all the different ways the Telecaster has been used in Country, Rockabilly, early Rock and Roll, Jazz, Western Swing and Blues. Quite an undertaking.

Tele Masters is laden with stars who go toe-to-toe with Arlen Roth. Big name Country royalty Brad Paisley and Vince Gil show that they are both legit string benders in spite of their often non-guitar-centric commercial success. Legends Steve Cropper and Albert Lee input their unique personalities and style while Roth complements and supports. Guitar cult heroes Bill Kirchen, Jerry Donahue, Johnny Hiland and Will Ray have lengthy musical dialogues with Roth that often trim down technique to pure emotional strength.

Professional Nashville session men Brent Mason and Steve Wariner are given spotlights to do their thing. Blues star Joe Bonamassa and the enigmatic Merle Haggard guitarist Redd Volkaert each take Roth and company deep into the heart of the Blues. Roth’s longtime band mates and collaborators Jack Pearson and pedal steel guitarist Cindy Cashdollar round out the party with the solid rhythm section of Hambridge, bassist Tommy MacDonald and acoustic guitarists Bryan Sutton and Billy Panda as the glue holding this bursting ship together.

The shear force of guitar flash on Tele Masters is overwhelming. If the music wasn’t so tastefully produced, well sequenced and well executed it would not work. The hyperbolic zoom of instrumentals “Remington Ride,” “Bunky,” “Roadworthy” and “Tuff Tele” are soothed by the hop and vibe of vocal cuts like “White Lightning,” “I Can Fix It,” “Tennessee Waltz” (sung by Roth’s daughter Lexie Roth) and “Promise Land” (sung by Roth band mate Sweet Mikey C.). Excellent instrumental takes on “Mrs. Robinson” (funky and hopping), “Satisfied Mind” (tender and emotive) and “Ghost Riders In the Sky” (powerful and haunting) refresh the palate.

The three overtly Blues songs also infuse passion and power to cut through the guitar hysterics: Bonamassa’s feature “Joe’s Blues” in which he is channeling Albert Collins icicles; Johnny Hiland’s feature “Funky Mama” the Big John Patton Soul Jazz vehicle that was a standard for the late great Danny Gatton, one of the greatest guitar players of all time; and stand out closing track, “A Minor Thing” in which Roth and Volkaert tastefully swing the Blues through Tin Pan Alley.

Tele Masters is not for the faint of heart. This is a guitar record with a capital “G.” It is Bluesy but it is also flashy and showy. These musicians are not holding back anything, they throw every lick possible at the music and fill all the spaces.

The effect is exhilarating and technical for the guitar geek (was that Arlen or Brad on the 3rd solo on “Bunky?”; who’s doing the melody the 2nd time through “Mrs. Robinson?”; which sides of the stereo pan are Arlen and Brent on “Roadworthy?”) The album is also accessible and variable. It is a statement of what the guitar can do and how expressive it can be.

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 – 9 of 10 

billy hector cd imageBilly Hector – Some Day Baby

Ghetto Surf Music GSM-026

13 songs – 60 minutes

A fixture on the blues-rock scene for decades, Billy Hector is a tasty vocalist/guitarist who seamlessly fuses blues with the sound of the Jersey Shore in an electrifying combination that pleases audiences no matter what their musical preference – something that’s on crystal clear display on this release.

A native of Orange, N.J., and now in his early 60s, Hector picked up his first six-string at age nine and studied jazz guitar and music history at William Patterson University before launching a professional career in which he’s earned living legend honors in the Asbury Park Music Awards after capturing multiple honors for best blues band and best guitarist, a prize he’s also been awarded twice by East Coast Rocker magazine.

Influenced by T-Bone Walker, Freddie King and Roy Buchanan, among others, he’s a master slide player who was a member of The Shots, the 1970s group that became the house band at the Stone Pony after Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes departed on their climb to fame. His background also includes service time in the bands of Hubert Sumlin and Joe Louis Walker, appearances at the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame’s American Music Masters Series, celebrating the music of Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, and on-screen work in two major movies, Hellhound On My Trail and No Way Out.

Hector’s backed here by David Nunez on keys, a horn section of Tom LaBella and John Martin (saxes) and Steve Jankowski (trumpet and trombone), as well as a revolving lineup of Van Romaine, Rich Monica, Sim Cain, Larry Crockett or Lee Finklestein on percussion and Wilbo Wright, Winston Roye, Erik Boyd, Tim Tindall or Chris Plunkett on bass and guitar appearances by the New Retro Strings, harmonica master Dennis Gruenling, keyboard wizard John Ginty and songwriting partner/vocalist Suzan Lastovica.

A collection of 11 originals and two traditional covers, Hector penned all of the new material here. A rapid-fire guitar and horn staccato run kicks off “Wizard Of Babylon,” which will grab you from the jump. It quickly settles into a medium-paced stop-time shuffle that gives Hector space to show off his instrumental chops before launching into a vocal that describes someone who can’t hide his many flaws.

A military drumbeat opens the blues-rocker “Someday Baby,” which is both searing and funky, as Billy looks forward to the day he’ll no longer have to work like a mule and mop dirty floors, while “Butt Naked And Funk” swings relentlessly as Hector and the band repeatedly drive home the message of the title with a feel that would make James Brown smile.

The slow-blues burner “Hit The Road” recounts a fight with a lady as he decides it’s high time to move on. Up next, the funk returns with “Busy Man,” another number certain to get you out of your chair and up on the dance floor. Billy stretches out on the fretboard for the driving blues-rocker “Moonlight In Her Eyes” before the loping, uptempo instrumental, “Bareback.”

Not to be confused with the Dolly Parton tune with the same title, the original “Jolene” is a Southern rocker built atop a seven-note guitar run. It’s followed back-to-back with the only non-originals in the set — “Alabama Bound,” a hit for Leadbelly in 1940, and “On Your Bond,” recorded in 1930 by Blind Willie Johnson. The former features Gruenling and a duet with Lastovica while the latter is delivered with an acoustic slide feel. The disc concludes with “Whiskey” – a ballad tribute to booze and whisky, the funky Southern rocker “Creeper” and the upbeat duet, “Road To Happiness.”

Available through Amazon, CDBaby and most other major retailers, Some Day Baby is a treat for anyone who likes their blues delivered with an urban feel. Strongly recommended.

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 – 10 of 10 

seive & the saddle cd imageThe Sieve & The Saddle – Self Titled

self release

songs-7 time-26:00

This Coachella, California based duo members are Morgan Alise James on vocals and Johnny Carmona on guitars. They take an approach that could be called a modern day version of Les Paul & Mary Ford as they multi-layer vocals and guitars. The liner notes and web site provide no information on additional musicians as there are also drums and occasional keyboards. I suppose their music were to be categorized it falls somewhere around alternative rock with maybe more of a pop bent. Morgan’s vocalizations seem to harken back to classic female rockers like Pat Benatar. Johnny layers his guitars in such a manner that at times you are not sure if it’s guitars or keyboards.

The title song introduces their approach and Morgan’s sure fire voice. It features guitars as well as some keyboards. “Big Bold Lie” has a super catchy riff accentuated by hand claps and guitars galore. Acoustic and electric guitars are featured in “Here Is Gone”. Johnny delivers a nicely done distorted guitar solo. “Raven” follows with memorable guitar riffing.

Things slow down a bit on “Long Way Down”. A way neat fuzz bass kicks off “Royal Affair” leading into a solid beat. Their country side shows up on “Wear It Twice” with acoustic and electric guitars.

All the songs here are written by the two along with producer Will Sturgeon. The lyrics are well written, but tend to fly by and at times intertwine with the production. A more attentive sit down will most likely reveal the creativity in the narratives. The music itself contains well constructed melodies within Will Sturgeon’s wall of sound production values.

Future more lengthy recordings will give the duo a chance to stretch out and broaden their musical vision. For the time being this is a worthy modern rock presentation.

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

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Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaugn, IL

The next PCBS Blues Jam is Wednesday July 24, and will be hosted by Doc Shredd & The HeartStrings. We hold two Blues Jams each month. Thanks to Pipa’s Pub, 604 S. Country Fair Dr. in Champaign for hosting the jams held the 2nd Sunday of each month from 4 to 7 pm and the 4th Wednesday of each month from 7 to 10 pm. The host band plays the 1st set and then it’s open to all the jammers in the house.

The Prairie Crossroads Blues Fest is 2 – 10 pm Saturday August 10th at the Champaign County Fairgrounds 1302 N. Coler in Urbana. Headliners include: Brandon Santini, Demetria Taylor, Lucious Spiller and Laurie Morvan. Local and Regional Acts include: Skylar Rogers & The Blue Diamonds, Ray-Band and David Lumsden Blues Band. Acoustic and Solo/Duo Acts include: Joe Asselin and Jenkins Bros. electrified blues duo. Plenty of Free Parking. Bring your lawnchairs and enjoy a full day of music for only $10.00.For more info visit:

Southeast Iowa Blues Society – Fairfield, IA

The Southeast Iowa Blues Society and Fairfield Convention & Visitors Bureau proudly present the 6th annual “Blue Ribbon Blues Fest”, August 3rd, 2019 at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, Fairfield, Iowa. Gates open at 4:30 with music beginning at 5pm..

Opening things up will be the Iowa and International Blues Challenge winner “Kevin B.F. Burt” at 5:30pm He will be followed at 7pm by a red hot newcomer from Chicago the “Ivy Ford Band” and our featured act coming off a nationally recognised CD the “Altered Five Blues Band” at 9pm. And of course our own Iowa Blues Hall of Famer “Tony Blew” playing between main stage acts.

Sweet n’ Saucy BBQ, Golden Kettle Corn and the famous Iowa Beer Bus, (No outside Food or Drinks) will be on hand for your enjoyment…bring your chairs and camping is available. Tickets are $25 and SIBS members $20 for more information call 641-919-7477 or go to

The Charlotte Blues Society – Charlotte, NC

The Charlotte Blues Society is pleased to announce our August Blues Bash will feature an Open Jam following The Instigators, an exciting Charlotte based, four piece Blues band that also demonstrate a command of Southern Soul, R&B, Reggae and Rock influences in their repertoire. The band members are as follows, Rob Dayton, Stephen Foley, John Hartley, and Michael Ingmire. Michael is a nationally published writer and historian who has written many musical history articles about many American musical icons. He is a consistent contributor to and the Charlotte Blues Society’s monthly newsletter with his writing.

The show will be held Sunday, Aug. 4th, at The Rabbit Hole, 1801 Commonwealth Ave., Charlotte, NC. Admission is free for members with valid cards and $5 to everyone else. Doors at 7:00; music at 8:00. Open jam at 9:30. It will be a great evening of music!

We continue to collect non-perishable food items for Loaves and Fishes. Cash donations are also welcome. 1 can? I can! More info at

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. July 24th: Ghost Town Blues Band, July 31st: Dave Keller Trio & Wheatbread Johnson 4:30 PM

Shows at the Lyran Society in Rockford to 10 pm no cover! – 7/19/19 Wheatbread Johnson, 8/16/19 Brother Dave Kaye

The monthly shows at the Hope and Anchor in Loves Park continue $5 cover, 8 to 11:30 PM: 8/10/19 Dave Weld & The Imperial Flames

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!

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.  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.

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 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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