Issue 13-31 August 1, 2019

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Cover photo © 2019 Bob Hakins

 In This Issue 

CyberSoulMan Tee Watts has our feature interview with Sonny Rhodes. We have 10 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from The Good, the Bad, and the Blues, Tiny Legs Tim, Madtown Mannish Boys, Taylor Scott Band, Midnight Breakfast, Saints and Sinners, The Lee Boys, Kelly Bell Band, Lucas Haneman Express and Adam Holt.

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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The 22nd annual Prairie Dog Blues Fest was a great one last weekend. The first night we got to hear Reverend Payton, Toronzo Cannon, Nikki Hill and Laura Chavez. It doesn’t get better than that! We will have coverage of all the action at Prairie Dog Blues in an upcoming issue.

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 Featured Interview – Sonny Rhodes 

Sonny Rhodes photo 1There is a very poignant passage in the critically acclaimed documentary film, Evolutionary Blues; West Oakland’s Music Legacy, in which lap steel guitar master Sonny Rhodes describes an encounter that happened in his native Texas when he was a young boy. Having been gifted with his first guitar at age eight, the young Rhodes was making a few coins ferrying equipment, including a lap steel guitar for members of a famous Western Swing band in Austin, Texas in 1952.

Rhodes stayed around for soundcheck and marveled at the sound the lap steel player coaxed from his instrument. He was smitten by the instrument immediately. After soundcheck, he walked up to the musician and spoke.

“Excuse me, sir. That’s a beautiful sound. When I grow up, I’m gonna get me one of those and play it too.”

The player smiled and replied, “I don’t think so son. This is a white man’s instrument and nigger’s don’t play ’em.”

In the film, Sonny Rhodes cries real tears as he recalls the hurtful moment that propelled him forward in music. He vowed to be the best that he could be on the lap steel.

I was able to meet the self-proclaimed Blues Disciple a few years back at a birthday party for another septuagenarian of the Blues, Lester Chambers. Sonny was decked out in a mustard yellow leisure suit with fedora and shoes to match. When we spoke with him by phone in mid-June of 2019, his sense of style was one of the things we talked about.

“Back in the day, I carried Jr. Parker’s harmonica case and clothes from gig to gig. It gave me great satisfaction. I even asked him what must I do to succeed in music. He told me that it took will determination and prayer. And if the Good Lord felt it was for me, he would grant success to me. Jr. Parker showed me how to behave with class and good manners as well as how to dress stylishly. I incorporated all those things into my public personality.”

Sonny Rhodes photo 2“I’ve always been a person that loved to dress ever since I was a youngster, but didn’t have a lot of clothes that I wanted as a young man. But the older I got, the better I looked when I put on my suits. Believe it or not, I still have several of the suits I had made for me back at Crown’s Tailor on E.6th Street in Austin Texas. I only wear them when I’m playing music.”

Sonny Rhodes was seemingly born into the Blues. He was orphaned by his birth mother. His birth name was Clarence Smith and he was born on November 3, 1940.

“Leroy and Julia Smith adopted me. I only saw my dad twice in my life. Once when I was about eight years old for about fifteen minutes and again when I was about fourteen years old. I went to Houston with my older brother for his funeral. I didn’t know anything about my birth parents.”

“My mother, Julia Smith, who raised me in Austin and Smithville, Texas, helped me see the rest of my brothers and sisters once a week. I remember when I was about eleven years old, they brought me down there to see them. Emma Maudlin, my birth mother, met us at the gate and told Julia Smith, the one that I called my mother, ‘I hope you don’t plan to leave him because I don’t want him.”

“It was hard to take then and it still hurts me today to know that she felt that way. All children want to be wanted, especially by their mother. I’ve always been a forgiving person and I never took advantage of anyone who did anything that I didn’t like. At near eighty years of age, I still believe in praying, ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do.’ That lessens the hurt and I’m able to continue to do what I do and do the best I possibly can while doing it.”

The young Sonny Rhodes received his aforementioned first guitar as a Christmas gift. And though it had only one string, by the age of twelve he was seriously on the guitar road, later forming his first band in his teenage years, gigging around Smithville and Austin. While still in Texas, he encountered a Blues inflected lap steel player, Hop Wilson. Wilson’s haunting licks enraptured Rhodes and served as a signpost along his life’s path. He was also influenced by Texas guitarists T-Bone Walker and Pee Wee Crayton.

His first professional group was called Clarence Smith and the Daylighters and they made some noise around the Austin area including a single released in 1958. After high school, Rhodes joined the navy and was able to visit the land of California.

Sonny Rhodes photo 3“I always wanted to come out here,” relates Sonny. ” “The people who raised me couldn’t get me out here so the only way I got to see California was to join the U.S. Navy. By coming to California, I got a chance to run around and do a lot of things in music. That’s what really got me started in California. I’m probably known more for what I did in the Oakland area than anything I did in Texas or anywhere else in the United States.”

Along the way, Rhodes gigged with Freddie King and Albert Collins playing bass for both of them at different times. He also was a protege of The Poet Laureate of the Blues, Percy Mayfield.

“It’s something that I wanted to do as a backup musician. To study the role of a star. Those guys were very serious. As long as you did what you were supposed to do as far as they were concerned, you were alright. And I was the person who would follow the leader if the leader was right.”

“Percy Mayfield was like a father to me. He spent a night at our house in Austin. He had such a great baritone voice and wrote beautiful songs. My ideas about writing came from him. I don’t know any singer that wrote songs as good and true as Percy Mayfield. One of my favorites of his is Baby Please, where he sings the hook ‘Because I am a prisoner, and I need your love to set me free.’ “

Sonny Rhode’s evolution as a guitarist, bass player and finally lap steel master was solidified when he worked with Oakland’s L.C. “Good Rockin’ Robinson, the areas top lap steel man in the early ’60s. It was under Robinson’s strict tutelage that Rhodes earned his lap steel stripes. Sonny regrets that Robinson, who passed in 1976, was not able to witness the heights and acclaim that he achieved since then.

Sonny established his own record label in the 1970s, Rhodes-Way Records. By his own admission, the label was short-lived and not very profitable.

“It wasn’t very difficult. I just didn’t know what I was doing. I was lucky and surprised that it did get off the ground. I certainly didn’t make any money.”

The Rhodes-Way catalog consisted of one 45 rpm record and one album.

Sonny’s career has slowed down considerably of late. He has played less than a handful of gigs in 2019, the most recent being the Hayward/Russell City Blues Festival in mid-July. Many of the memories of his stellar career have been lost to the ravages of time. We spoke about his recording of the theme song, The Ballad Of Serenity, for the very popular TV series Firefly which ran for two seasons, 2002 and 2003. Truthfully, Mr. Rhodes couldn’t remember exactly how the recording came about and asserts that he didn’t get paid.

Sonny Rhodes photo 4“Ah, I don’t know, you know. It’s just something that came about. To be truthful, I’ve done so much in the Blues that I can’t remember everything that I’ve done. Many things I’ve done were off the cuff, off the top of my head and weren’t notated. At pretty close to 80 years of age, some things have gotten away from me. I don’t remember getting paid for the TV show song.”

(To be fair, efforts to contact Joss Whedon, the creator of the show and credited songwriter of Firely, to corroborate or disavow Sonny’s assertion, were unsuccessful.)

As I researched the legacy of Sonny Rhodes, I came across a YouTube comment from a listener who thought that the sound of Sonny Rhodes reminded him of Stevie Ray Vaughn, who was some fourteen years younger than Sonny Rhodes. That being said, it stands to reason that the listener’s evaluation was probably backwards. When I mentioned it to Sonny Rhodes, he responded with the following.

“Of course I knew Stevie Ray Vaughan and jammed with him. I came up in an era when blacks and whites didn’t do much associating unless you were a part of what they were doing. Erroneous thinking doesn’t bother me. That’s the way it was and continues to be. I just give it to the Lord.

We end the music conversation with a question about his gear preferences.

“Well, I got my first Fender, oh man, more than fifty years ago. That was the instrument that most blacks played. Albert Collins, of course, played a Fender. I don’t own Fenders today. I have two “pawnshop guitars” today. A regular and a lap steel. I’ve never had an endorsement deal.”

As we bid good-bye I ask Mr. Sonny Rhodes if there is anything he would like to say to the thousands of Blues Blast readers. He shifts his response to the Creator.

“I thank the Good Lord for making me who I am and staying with me through the years. I thank Him for what I’ve done because, without HIM, there wouldn’t be no me!”


CyberSoulMan Tee Watts is the former music director at KPFZ 88.1 fm in Lakeport, California. He is currently co-writing the memoirs of Lester Chambers of the Chambers Brothers.

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 10 

good bad and the blues band album imageThe Good, the Bad, and the Blues: The Good, the Bad, and the Blues

Third Street Cigar Records

13 songs, 57 minutes

Based in Toledo, Ohio, The Good, the Bad and the Blues is a quartet of seasoned musicians who play their own blend of soul-inflected blues, spiced-up some gospel, and with more than a little funk for good measure… and always with a solid groove!

Featuring Aayan Naim on guitar and vocals, Gordon Henry on bass, BJ Love on Hammond B3 and piano, and “Hollywood” Mike Darby on drums, the band’s solid, accomplished performers make it all look easy… and fun! Aayan Naim grew up in Chicago, and began performing in the 7th grade. He turned pro just a couple years later playing in a variety of bands, and never looked back. Of note, his childhood home was directly across the street from Howlin’ Wolf, while his brother-in- law was a member of the Temptations… all in all, a not-too-shabby backdrop for an aspiring musician. Those early experiences definitely had an influence on his musical evolution, and it shows in his songwriting, song choices, and performance. Other musicians contributing to this album include Ric Wolkins and Mark Lemle of the Toledo Horns on trumpet and saxophone, respectively; Travis Geiman on trombone, and Ray Benson on congas. Internationally recognized soul blues powerhouse Johnny Rawls handles guitar duties and vocals for the album’s final song, “Ain’t Nothing Like the Blues.”

This self-titled album – their first – was recorded at the studios of the Toledo School for the Arts, and the label, Third Street Cigar, is based in Waterville, OH. The album was co-produced by Naim and Third Street’s co-owner, John Henry, a co-founder of the Black Swamp Blues Society. For this debut album, the band decided on a mix of original material and covers, including some written by – or co-written with Rawls.

The opener, “Kind of Girl,” written by Naim and drummer Darby, has a relaxed, Memphis-flavored soul groove accompanied by some tasty horns. “Searchin’” is mid-tempo minor soul blues penned by Rawls, and features Naim’s emotional vocals front and center. Next up is the Naim-penned I’ve Been Down, a funky, up-tempo ode to perseverance, with some great horn charts, that Naim drives home with his powerful vocal.

“‘Til You Come Home” is a soulful, organ-soaked ballad that is somewhat overpowered by Mike Darby’s muscular approach to the drum track.

“Blindog” is a tune by Anthony Gomes, the Canadian guitarist currently based in St. Louis, MO. This version hews fairly close to Gomes’ own version, and has a funk-rock feel to it, accentuated by Naim’s stinging guitar fills.

Two of the real standout tracks on the album had been originally recorded in the late 60s by Tyrone Davis: “Can I Change My Mind? (written by Barry Despenza and Carl Wolfolk) and “Turn Back the Hands of Time” (written by Jack Daniels and Bonnie Thompson). Both songs are eloquent in their expression of regret, and the band’s performances do real justice to both.

“It’s Raining,” another Naim composition, is a slow, minor-key ballad that relies heavily on some ethereal reverb and tremolo for the underpinning provided by Naim’s rhythm guitar. Here again, Naim’s soulful voice carries the song, and he’s assisted by an occasional chorus of the chorus’ refrain. His tasteful, understated solo brings it all together.

The final track, the acoustic “Ain’t Nothing Like the Blues” has a down-home front porch feel to it, was written by and features Johnny Rawls, trading vocals with Naim.

All in all, this is a solid album of what I might classify as Memphis-influenced soul blues. The original tunes are solid, but the band really shines on the two Tyrone Davis reinterpretations.

As I do with every album I review, I headed on over to YouTube to check-out their live performances, and found them to be quite impressive! If you’re a fan of soul blues with a pinch of funk thrown in for seasoning, I think you’ll enjoy this album… I know I did! Hope to be able to see them in person some day so I can experience that solid groove, “live and in person!”

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 10 

tiny legs tim album imageTiny Legs Tim – Elsewhere Bound

Sing My Title

10 songs – 44 minutes

Tiny Legs Tim (née Tim De Graeve) is a Belgian singer/songwriter/guitarist and Elsewhere Bound is his fifth studio album. His previous release, Melodium Rag, was a stripped-back acoustic affair. Elsewhere Bound, while still having moments of raw acoustic intimacy, also features a large band on many of the tracks. The overall result is a very engaging collection of modern blues numbers, often underpinned by a variety of Mississippi grooves and influences, but all of which have a distinctively novel vibe.

Opening with the punchy title track, a horn-driven upbeat number, Tim’s subtly repetitive acoustic slide lick under the verses provides the song with real impetus. This is followed by “One More Chance”, which opens with just a vocal melody being echoed by a single note Son House-style Delta blues riff. Slowly, the rest of the band including the horns join in, adding a modern sheen to what is essentially a classic Mississippi blues song. Tim adds a brilliant guitar solo with not a single unnecessary note. The song ebbs and flows like the Mississippi River with some glorious dynamics.

“Still In Love” is a haunting minor key lament with more fine horn lines (kudos to Tom Callens for his sterling efforts across the album in arranging the horn parts) with another top drawer guitar solo, while “In The Morning” is an upbeat Slim Harpo-esque one chord groove. The slow “Nowhere My Home” is driven by Tim’s delicate finger-picked guitar while “The Lovin’ Kind” opens with a Chicago-style groove before adding a funky horn part to create something entirely new. There are hints of the folk-blues of the magnificent Chris Smither on “The Game”.

The album ends with the powerfully raw “I Ain’t Ready”, which features Tim alone with a guitar, his vocal melody once again echoing the melody plucked from the guitar.

Several of the songs on the album, such as “The Lovin’ Kind”, “Don’t Be Sorry” or “New Place”, are based around one-chord vamps and anyone who has ever heard a bar band mangle a Howlin’ Wolf classic will know how tricky it can be to maintain the listener’s attention without an obvious chord progression to follow. Tiny Legs Tim and his crack band have no such problems on Elsewhere Bound.

Tim handles the vocals and guitars with aplomb, singing in a light, curiously affecting tenor and laying down a series of nicely finger-picked lines or single notes solos. He takes masterful support from Tom Callens on baritone and tenor sax, Mark De Maeseneer on tenor sax, Marie-Anne Standaert and Yves Fernandez on trumpet, Luc Vermeir on piano, Steven Troch on harmonica, Filip Vandebril on bass and double bass, Amel Serra Garcia on percussion and Frederik Van dan Berghe on drums.

Produced by Tim and recorded in Robot Studio, Ghent, Elsewhere Bound has a warm, modern sound that fits the music perfectly. It also comes in a fine CD sleeve designed by Jannes de Schrijver.

Tiny Legs Tim takes his name from his unusually thin legs, the result of a debilitating illness that nearly cost him his life. It’s an unusual name for an unusually impressive musician. And one 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 – 3 of 10 

madtown mannish boys album imageMadtown Mannish Boys – Live at the Knuckle Down Saloon

Self released

12 songs

Regional Blues bands are a vital part of the Blues ecosystem. They keep our music alive and keep audiences involved and vibrant. Grinding out a tightrope act of bar band bravado, real deal Blues cred and cover-friendly drinking party music, most of the musicians in these bands burn the candle at both ends holding down day jobs. Equally important are music venues that value the bands, give them regular gigs and cultivate the community. In Madison, WI the local bar flies and Blues boppers are lucky to have the Madtown Mannish Boys laying down their greasy stone-cold Blues at fine establishments like the Knuckle Down Saloon. This 2018 live recording lets the rest of us in on the party.

The Madtown Mannish Boys are a dual lead vocal/harp band, a unique vibe for sure. Paul Schwoerer and Andy Smith are the yin and yang of the impassioned James Cotton and Junior Wells schools of harp singers. Schwoerer has the gruff Cotton growl in his voice and handles the more bare knuckle material such as “Big Boss Man,” “Hound Dog” and “Mojo Working” while Smith has a smoother slicker delivery on R&B numbers such as “Tennessee Whiskey/I’d Rather Go Blind,” “Tell Me Mama” and the original “Hey Baby.” Nate Meronek on drums, Tim Payne on bass, Adam Pryor on keys and Jesse Steinberg on guitar or a solid Blues band. These guys have paid attention to their history and know how to create the real Chicago vibe of old Chess, Delmark and Cobra records. A hot horn section rounds out this big ensemble with Merle Bailey and Dan Resnick on saxs and Jason Schultz on trombone. As if these guys weren’t enough, for this special night at the Knuckle Down a host of guests joined on a song or two each: Westside Andy Linderman – harp, Radka Kasparcova – guitar, Johnny Watson – drums, Bill Anderson – keys, Rick Hauser – trumpet, Tall Paul Sabel – harp, Jesse Olson – keys.

Live at the Knuckle Down Saloon is a solid enjoyable listen. The stage banter between songs makes this record a fun straight through listening experience. The music is traditional Chicago Blues executed cleanly. While the material is not especially varied, the diversity created by the two singers switching off gives the set variety and keeps everything engaging. This live record has a looser and more immediate feel than the Madtown’ers 2017 fine studio album Old Dog, another set full of classic covers with only the Freddie King signature piece “Love Her With a Feeling” making an appearance on both discs. This is a great Summer listen for the Blues fiend and perfect for background at a BBQ. These guys play all over Madtown and, as is illustrated on Live at the Knuckle Down, are a killer band to catch at fine Wisconsin watering holes.

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 

taylor scott cd imageTaylor Scott Band – All We Have

self released

12 songs/45 minutes

Denver, CO based Taylor Scott is a guitarist, singer and songwriter of the soulful variety. Scott combines his killer guitar chops and strong, emotionally deep vocals with an ultra fluid and flexible band to make this eclectic, well produced and performed record, All We Have. Although Scott has real deal Blues cred from working with Colorado hypno-Blues legend Otis Taylor, Scott’s music, and specifically his songwriting, is more of a variety 12-pack ranging from complex layered imagery to plain spoken simplistic observationalism in the Modern Country vein.

Before critique of the songwriting, it is important to note this record is professionally performed and produced. Credited to the Taylor Scott Band and produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, this record has a great band quality in spite of, or more aptly in service to, featuring the band leader. Jon Wirtz on keys, Chris Harris on bass and Lem Williams on drums are the band and play with flexibility and taste. Horns on a bunch of tracks are arranged by trombonist Mark “Speedy” Gonzales and executed with help from Josh Levy on bari-sax and Gilbert Elorreaga on trumpet. Percussion is supplied by Jesse Brooke and the bass chair is filled on one track by Ben Rubin. Harmonica by Nic Clark and background vocals by Sarah Morris Wirtz and Steve Watkins fill out the record.

The songs on All We Have take two divergent trips. These trips are defined by how Scott sings and his song craft. The first trip’s songs are soulful testifiers that are dense with imagery. These are the most effective. The breathtaking 1-2 punch of openers “Somebody Told Me” and “Curiosity” are complex highly sophisticated flip-sides of Taylor’s muse. “Somebody” is stanky slinky R&B groove in which Scott ponders life and meaning with a big rock chorus. “Curiosity” is a hopped up Alt-Country hoedown resplendent with horn blasts. This could be an outtake from Wilco’s Being There, with Scott showing his ability to observe and process poetically what he sees in the world through a skewed modern traditionalist lens. “Hair of Indigo” is a chilled out Trip Hop rundown with guest guitarist Henry Garza from Los Lonely Boys cuttin’ heads with Scott.

The second trip of All We Have is songs of tight near spoken word observations on modern, often small town, life that are clear and unfussy. “Clearance Bin,” “Salted Watermelon” and “Carry Me Away” have the phrasing, arrangement and imagery of Modern Country. Scott does not let his vocal range show on these songs, not that every song has to be a melismatic scorcher, but the vocals are quite staid in comparison to other tracks. The music is also less interesting, more plain and straightforward. On these tracks Scott still plays inventive and surprising guitar. The great slide lead on “Carrying,” the sticky solo on “Watermelon” and the stringy lead over “Bin” all make for enjoyable rides with Scott’s stamp on them. But, this vein of songwriting doesn’t best suit Scott’s talent.

The song “Wishing Well” is a groovy hopper and brings the 2 divergent trips together. Scott uses that more monochromatic vocal approach to the verses but colors the tails of the phrases with a little Blue. The big soaring chorus is catchy and the image of the wishing well works. This reviewer would like more of the deep grooved R&B, but “Well” is a possible future way forward for Taylor Scott Band, blending the 2 trips, and strengthening the latter. Every musician has to follow their own journey and chase their sound, it is exciting to hear. Taylor Scott is on that journey and it is real fun to bear witness to on All We Have.

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 – 5 of 10 

midnight breakfast album imageMidnight Breakfast – Between

self release

10 songs time-46:52

There is just no way to get around this. Singer Marco Valietti’s deep croaking bullfrog voice with an Italian accent is a bit much to take. He essentially talks. You find yourself straining to decipher much of what he says. That aside his guitar playing along with that of Stefano Albertini is intricate and interesting, but hardly blues. The rhythm section holds its’ own. they rely on very little outside help and all songs are joint band compositions. Remove the “vocals” and you have an interesting listen. Midnight Breakfast are from Bergamo, Italy and are at least taking chances with their music.

“Mirror” kicks in with kind of “Secret Agent” style guitars, then the “vocal” with it’s repetitive line “Am I right, am I wrong?” is said over and over. At least there are atmospheric guitars in “Trees”, but the talking isn’t pleasant to the ears. A slight slow blues vibe is featured in “Travelling”. “Down” has some nicely ringing guitars.

Distorted wah-wah guitar is the center of the upbeat “I Met A Girl”. He is saying something about “Wonderland”. Strangely, but refreshing, Marco “sings” “Ground” in a falsetto voice. The falsetto singing appears once again in “Cold Place”. By the time we arrive at the last song “Between”, the title song, I’m beginning to understand the words a bit more. I’m pretty sue he’s saying “There is a rhythm between us”.

Ok, this band is adventurous, but I find the “vocals” to be a big obstruction to get over. The promo material touts them as a blues band, something that in the case of this recording couldn’t be farther from reality. The music taken alone has intriguing tones and atmospherics. Maybe Marco’s extravagant voice has an appeal to the European audience, but I can’t see it. Hey guys how about a CD of all instrumentals next time around? You be the judge.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 10 

saints and sinners cd imageSaints and Sinners – Saints and Sinners


10 Tracks/34:47

This debut recording features a trio from New York City that came into existence three years ago. Guitarist Christian Botta, also the lead singer, is a well-traveled musician with a Masters degree in Musicology. The rhythm section is comprised of Dave Gerstein on bass, a former member of Joey Dee & the Starliters, and Daryl Cozzi on drums (Cozzi has since left the band, with Mike Rodbard now generating the rhythm).

After a slide guitar intro, they kick things off with a ZZ Top-styled boogie riff and Botta’s layered vocals on the original, “Good Time Girl”. Another of the leader’s originals, “World Gone Mad,” gives Gerstein a chance to get funky while Botta puts his guitar to work, squeezing out an impressive solo. “She Gets Me” returns to the boogie format, adds some generic lyrics, and is still worth a listen for the fine fretwork. Lyrics are not Botta’s forte, but the slow blues “Door To Door” holds up well, especially when his guitar takes over. Botta offers his homage to Otis Rush on “These Four Walls,” his vocal straining under the twisted emotions that prove to be no hardship for him to express through his guitar.

Botta gives listeners a taste of his masterful dexterity on the slide guitar on a run-through of the traditional tune, “Easy Rider Blues”. Their fierce version of Robert Johnson’s “Malted Milk” has more fine slide playing, harking back to the Johnny Winter legacy. A remake of Muddy Water’s “Going To Main Street” takes the tune down a hard-rocking highway, with the leader’s guitar work the lone saving grace. Making a switch to a Sonny Boy Williamson II number, Botta rips it up on “Sad To Be Alone,” showing Jimi Hendrix and “Red House” were another source of inspiration. Botta uses the instrumental, “San-Ho-Zay,” to close out the disc, offering his personal take on the Freddie King classic, and having fun the whole time.

Saints and Sinners undoubtedly are a band that can keep an audience entertained. Botta’s earnest vocals work most of the time and the rhythm section is solid. If you have a passion for guitar players who can play a variety of styles with tasteful precision, Christian has got you covered.

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 

the lee boys cd imageThe Lee Boys – Live On The East Coast

M.C. Records

11 Tracks/65:24

Following a Biblical passage in Psalms encouraging Christians to generate praise to God with stringed instruments, the House of God churches incorporated the pedal steel guitar into their worship services, often in place of the organ. A split lead to the formation of two denominations, the Keith and Jewel Dominions, both featuring the steel guitar. Early pioneers like brothers Troman and Willie Eason plus Bishop Lorenzo Harrison developed the exciting sound known to whip worshipers into a spiritual frenzy.

Just before the turn of the century, Arhoolie Records brought what became known as sacred steel music into the public consciousness with a series of recordings by a newer generation of musicians raised in the tradition including the Campbell Brothers, Sonny Treadway, Aubrey Ghent, and Calvin Cooke. These artists frequently performed at blues festivals to great acclaim. It took another steel guitar wizard, Robert Randolph, to take the music beyond a niche market to world-wide acceptance.

In 2005. the Lee Boys released their Say Yes recording on Arhoolie, featuring brothers Alvin,Derrick, and Keith Lee supported their nephews Alvin Cordy, Jr. on bass and Earl Walker on drums. Another nephew, Roosevelt Collier, showed that he had plenty to say on his steel guitar. That line-up is featured on the new live recording, with Chris Johnson taking over the pedal steel chair for Collier, who is pursuing his own career but still does some shows with the band. Recorded at three shows in Virginia, North Carolina, and their home state of Florida, the disc showcases the Lee Boys working hard to deliver a message of salvation wrapped around a pulsating musical core.

Opening with three songs from the public domain, starting with the hymn “In The Morning,” giving Johnson a chance to get the audience fired up. The brothers take “Walk With Me Lord” down a darker path while pleading for spiritual companionship. Keith and Derrick Lee handle the lead vocals throughout the disc while Alvin plays guitar and adds backing vocals. The power of the band’s live show shines through on a rousing take of “Don’t Let The Devil Ride,” with Johnson trying to channel Duane Allman through his instrument. Cordy, Jr. lays down a popping bass line to introduce the Staple Singers hit, “I’ll Take You There,” with the pedal steel lurking in the background. After a short bass solo, Johnson sets off in full flight, creating a burst of musical ecstasy.

The formula continues throughout the disc. The rhythm section sets a frantic pace on “Come On Help Me Lift Him Up,” and the brothers make Alvin’s original a highlight with some tight vocal harmonizing, which they repeat on Rev. James Cleveland’s “Lord Help Me To Hold Out,” before stepping back so Johnson and guest Rick Lollar can engage in a heated guitar exchange. “Testify” was the title track of the band’s last album, released seven years ago. One of Alvin’s originals, it weaves gospel, funk, and rock influences to create a modern version of praise music that is sure to inspire anyone in hearing range.

Brother Derrick makes two contributions, with “Praise You” suffering a bit from a tentative vocal. But “Walk With Me, ” inspired by the Grateful Dead legacy, has Johnson once again demonstrating his complete mastery of the pedal steel through a series of rousing solos. The staple of Dead shows, “Turn On Your Love Light,” is a natural fit, although listeners will undoubtedly wish that Johnson would have been given more space to expand on his red-hot string bending. The brothers interpretation of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “You Got To Move” reinvents the somber classic into a high-energy rave-up, with Issac Corbett adding some rudimentary harp licks as the band rocks hard, eliciting one more outburst from Johnson.

Perhaps the Lee Boys should make a point of recording all of their future releases live. They are certainly right at home on stage, with every track brimming with a palpable, invigorating level of energy. Any thought that the departure of Collier would diminish the band’s impact are quickly laid to rest. Johnson’s star shines bright throughout. After a long wait, fans of the Lee Boys will certainly treasure this addition to the sacred steel legacy!

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 – 8 of 10 

kelly bell band cd imageKelly Bell Band – Know My Name


CD: 13 Songs, 53:00 Minutes

Styles: R&B, Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Ensemble Blues, All Original Songs

R&B and the blues have always been kissing cousins. Indeed, that’s what the “B” stands for, and distinguishing the two can be difficult. R&B hallmarks include a focus on crooning vocals and a big-band sound. These are vividly present on Know My Name by Baltimore’s Kelly Bell Band. Originally formed as the backup ensemble for rock-and-roll pioneer Bo Diddley, KBB has been touring the world ever since, entertaining fans in Japan, Spain, Italy, Greece, Germany and more. Their debut album, Phat Blues Music, remains one of the best-selling releases in Mid-Atlantic region history. They’ve got it all: dynamic singing, high-energy instrumentation, killer lyrics, and an overall atmosphere of peace, love and harmony. All lucky thirteen tracks are originals. The only head-scratcher? Number six, “Gimmick Infringement?”, featuring three sounds: “BOMP-BOMP, WHOOO!” It’s a separate track, believe it or not. Does it have a backstory? Ms. Wetnight would love to hear it, and in the meantime, she encourages blues fans to enjoy the rest.

Kelly “The Bluesman” Bell is joined by vocalist Rahsaan “Wordslave” Eldridge, guitarists Ryan Fowler and Eric Robinson, Frankie Hernandez on bass, John Robert Buell on drums, and Dane Paul Russell on harmonica. Guest stars include Ira Mayfield, Jr. on acoustic guitars, Kirk Myers on keys and vocals, and Russell McCray on alto sax. Special guest artists include Justin Schlegel and Adam Lacarino. Additional musicians in the KBB family are Bryan Ewald on guitar and the Phat Blues Horn Section: Davidson Smith and Zack Smith on trumpet, Leigh Pilzer on trumpet and baritone sax, and Todd Baldwin on trombone. Additional vocals are provided by Kristin Lagana, Michelle Herring, Navasha Daya, Jill Davolio, Brooks Long, Julie Cymek, Dave Tieff, Ron Eldridge, and Jamaal “Black Root” Collier.

It’s almost impossible to pick the three best songs on this album, but here goes everything.

Track 02: “Last $4” – Even if you’re broke, you can still have a good time on the dance floor by putting your “last $4 in the jukebox” and persuading your partner to join you. The invitation is pure and simple, with a refreshing lack of raunchiness. “Understand, when you take my hand, oh, what a time it’ll be.” Dane Paul Russell’s harmonica is the perfect complement to the horn section, adding a modern twist to this song’s classic style. Play air guitar in the middle, too!

Track 06: “Know My Name” – The album’s title track has one of the most haunting, melodious intros of 2019, giving yours truly chills down her spine. The song’s subject is just as scary: “Papa said, ‘Son, I love you, but me and your mama don’t see eye-to-eye. When it’s all said and done, you’re gonna know my name. When it’s all said and done, you’re gonna know my name.” Finally, a blues/R&B track about keeping family ties strong even after a breakup or divorce.

Track 07: “I’m Gone!” – One’s relationship with one’s supervisor, however, need not be so long-standing. The end to this song is hilarious, depicting one final chew-out before the old heave-ho. “I’ve never spin-kicked anybody. . .No need for name-calling and histrionics.” The boss says, “I don’t know what ‘histrionics’ means!” Fed up with your job? Hit “repeat” on number seven.

Know My Name will make one want to know the Kelly Bell Band a lot better. It’s fantastic!

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 – 9 of 10 

lucas hanemann express de imageLucas Haneman Express – Catch the Westbound


CD: 10 Songs, 51:00 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric and Acoustic Blues Rock, Roots, All Original Songs

True story: At first glance, I thought the band name of Canada’s Lucas Haneman Express was Lucas HANGMAN Express. With skeletons drawn on the jacket of their new CD, Catch the Westbound, featuring ten original songs such as “Wicked Ride” and “Devil’s in my Grave,” one may forgive me for such a brain fart. What the Express offers is so good it’s scary, though it may be too rock-focused and Millennial for some. The 40-and-under crowd will love it, for as the band’s website says, “Lucas Haneman is an expressive and soulful guitarist with a sound that reaches beyond genres.” The blending of such is as seamless as the blending of this quartet’s vocals. Soaring harmonies are the real highlight of this album, so open your ears and enjoy.

Haneman started playing the guitar when he was six years old, originally focusing on folk and blues, but branching out into jazz and alternative rock as a teenager. He’s also proficient at mandolin, banjo, bass and drums. While in high school, Haneman received a CBC Galixy Rising Star Award at the 2005 Ottawa International Jazz Festival. In 2010 he graduated from Concordia University with a BFA in Jazz Studies (where he received the prestigious Oscar Peterson scholarship in 2008. More recently, he has been a two-time winner of the Ottawa Blues Challenge, a 2018 Maple Blues nominee, and along with Megan Laurence, will be competing for the second time at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis (January 2020).

Joining Lucas (lead vocals, electric, acoustic and twelve-string soprano guitar) are Jeff Asselin on drums and percussion, Megan Laurence on vocals, and Martin Newman on bass and vocals. Special guest Jeff Heisholt stars on organ for tracks three and nine.

The songs below will make even the most die-hard blues purists start playing air instruments.

Track 01: “Lay It to the Line” – The album’s first track is so great that I listened to it three times before moving on to the next one. Number one’s got everything an opener should – high energy, killer rock guitar, skillful lyrics, crisp instrumentation, and lethal hooks in the chorus. “Where do we go from he-e-ere, cause I’ve got questions on my mind, like how do I disape-e-ear?” LOL!

Track 05: “Ms. McGrim” – Haneman and company take a trip down acoustic lane in their hard-driving fifth song. Its subject? A woman with a warning attached: She may or may not have made her lover permanently disappear in the dead of night. “Young man had a lesson in ‘don’t mess ‘round with Ms. McGrim…” The background vocals are so catchy that you’ll find yourself singing along whether you intend to or not.

Track 06: “Devil’s in my Grave” – The band’s harmonies are at their most vibrant here as they lament their ominous fate in the afterlife: “Heart beats slow, don’t know where to go. My heart beats slow; I don’t know where to go. All alone, the Devil took my bones. She’s all alone, the Devil took my bones.” This atmospheric lament morphs into a flat-out Jimi Hendrix-style experience toward the end. As you rock out, remember the legend of Robert Johnson.

Catch the Westbound with the Lucas Haneman Express. Prepare for a wild ride!

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.

 Featured Blues Review – 10 of 10 

Adam Holt Cd review imageAdam Holt – Kind of Blues

Zenith Records

CD: 10 Songs, 43:24 Minutes

Styles: Country Blues, Southern Rock, Contemporary Electric and Acoustic Blues Rock

The acronym “RIYL” is a fabulous piece of shorthand, a key that unlocks the mystery of what an artist’s work looks and/or sounds like. Alabama’s Adam Holt is “Recommended If You Like” Allen Collins, Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, and Gregg Allman. Holt has a powerful, melodic voice, each word clear as crystal, and his guitar ain’t half-bad either. What he lacks in traditional blues rhythms and subject matter, he makes up for with smooth style and robust instrumentation. He also does a great job of making sure he doesn’t outshine his compatriots. Rarely has Ms. Wetnight heard such perfect balance of each separate musical element on a blues CD. Nine original songs plus one cover (Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay”) equal one marvelous effort.

“The title, Kind of Blues, is a reflection of the styles within the sound of the album,” Holt reveals in his promotional material. “It has a blend of blues, country, Americana, and rock-and-roll, tied together by contemporary blues licks. The name is also a nod to Kind of Blue, the album made famous by Miles Davis, which I know very well. I listened to [it] many nights while I worked on my analog recording gear, compressors, preamps and my tape machines, which I used to make this record.”

Accompanying Adam (vocals, acoustic and electric guitars) are Owen Finley on bass, Greg Deluca on drums, Donnie Sundal on organ and piano, Lee Yankie (no typo and no joke) on slide guitar, Mark Welborn on pedal steel, and Pierre Robinson on bass.

The following three tracks show how good Adam Holt is, his RIYL influences notwithstanding.

Track 01: “Mr. Morning Drive” – As one might expect, the subject of this song is a stalwart DJ – his wife’s grandfather! – whose expertise livened up motorists’ path to work or play. “Fifty years on the radio, going, going, going – Mr. Morning Drive.” The groove here is one of anticipation instead of anathema, daring instead of drudgery. Donnie Sundal’s piano notes fall like drops of sunshine on your consciousness as Holt’s guitar compels you to rethink your views on commuting. Check out the call letters for the radio station – “WOOW.” That’s what you’ll say when you hear this. You’ll also hear Jack Bell’s actual voice recorded on a vintage microphone.

Track 03: “Bobby” – Addiction is in the top ten list of popular subjects for blues and rock songs. From Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine” to Martika’s “Toy Soldiers,” its perils have been described far and wide. What makes this ballad notable is the visceral way in which the addict is described: “Bobby, you’ve lost your way. You’ve gone from the rock to the cocaine. Bobby, you’ve lost your head. You pick yourself up off the floor, and you crawl into a king-sized bed…” The church-style organ at the beginning is a spot-on introduction to this come-to-Jesus sermon.

Track 08: “The Bourgeoisie” – Ever heard the term “humblebrag?” The narrator of this song defines it in a tongue-in-cheek way: “I’ve made my mark on society. Now all my friends want to be like me, in the lap of luxury. I live a life only they can dream. They want to know how I do so well. That’s a story that I’ll never tell. It’s a secret I must keep so with the Joneses I can meet.” Hear how the guitar laughs as you listen, pointing its fretwork fingers at lesser accomplishments.

If you love Southern rock, you’ll adore Adam Holt’s Kind of Blues!

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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 Blues Society News 

 Send your Blues Society’s BIG news or Press Release about your not-for-profit event with the subject line “Blues Society News” to: email address image

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River City Blues Society – Peoria, IL

Saturday September 7, 2019 the RCBS will host a membership drive ‘appreciation’ concert featuring acclaimed Guitarist / Vocalist / Songwriter Sean Chambers LIVE at BG Saloon in Bartonville, IL. Opening act: Chris Stevens & Greg Weinberg. Music starts at 5:00 p.m.

Sacramento Blues Society – Sacramento, CA

The Sacramento Blues Society is proud to announce the 2019 Inductees to the Sacramento Blues Society Hall of Fame are: Kenny Marchese, Leo Bootes, Marty Deradoorian, Robert Nakashima and from our Gone but Not Forgotten Gary “Walin” Black. Join us at Harlow’s, 2708 J Street, Sacramento, on September 29th from 1:00 – 5:00 for the Induction Ceremony and awesome entertainment by 2016 SBS Hall of Fame Inductee Marcel Smith w/Bob Jones & The Chosen Few. Tickets $15 for SBS Members, $20 for Non-members. HOF All-Star Showcase after the Ceremony at the nationally known Torch Club, 904 15th St., Sacramento, from 6-8 pm. For additional information, please contact

Multiple System Atrophy Coalition – Peoria, IL

My wife was a blues fan. Not an artist, but pretty good with an iTunes mix. It was blues music that helped her battle multiple system atrophy (MSA.

MSA, nicknamed “Parkinson’s on steroids” by a patient and “the Beast” by another, is rare, sporadic and terminal within 7-10 years from onset. During her MSA journey she and her husband Larry (Doc) Kellerman brainstormed how to best raise awareness. They decided to to “recruit” blues artists, fans, supporters and college basketball teams and fans to the cause.

This year the Beat MSA! Event is October 3rd, 5:30 – 9:30 pm at the Monarch Music Hall in Peoria, IL. Visit to learn more, make a donation or bid on a silent auction item donated by blues artists, college basketball teams and businesses. All proceeds benefit the Multiple System Atrophy Coalition. This is the third year of the event. Over 70 blues artists and untold blues fans have contributed to beating this disease. We will Beat MSA! with your help. Please join us.

Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaugn, IL

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: Black Eyed Lillies Joe Asselin and Lindsay Lilly) and the Jenkins Bros. electrified blues duo. There’s plenty of Free Parking. Bring your lawnchairs and enjoy a full day of music for only $10.00. For more info visit:

Bunny’s Tavern in Urbana is also hosting part of the Blues Fest Weekend with music on Friday evening August 9. The Painkillers Blues Band host a Jam from 4:30 to 7:30 and Sapphire entertains with Blues, Blues Rock and Classic Rock tunes from 8 to 11. Lucious Spiller is sticking around to host the PCBS Blues Jam at Pipa’s Pub in Champaign, Sunday August 11, from 4 to 7. Bring your instrument, join in the fun!

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 Lyran Society in Rockford to 10 pm no cover! – 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.  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:

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

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