Issue 13-43 October 24, 2019

cover photo of issue 13-43

Cover photo © 2019 Bob Kieser


 In This Issue 

Marty Gunther has our feature interview with Brandon Santini.  We have 4 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Al Basile, Jumping Matt & His Combo, Terry Hanck and Gracie Curran & friends.

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


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 Featured Interview – Brandon Santini 

brandon santini photo 1When Brandon Santini’s name was announced at the 2019 Blues Blast Music Awards as the winner for contemporary album of the year, the most stunned person probably was Brandon himself.

It’s not surprising when you consider that his CD, The Longshot, was up against stiff competition, including Shemekia Copeland and her America’s Child, which had captured album of the year honors at the Blues Music Awards a few months before.

The honor was a long time coming for Santini, a vocalist with a powerful, rough-hewn delivery and a harmonica player with big tone and his own personal, tradition-based style.

Brandon chuckles when he notes that, because of past experiences in the awards process, it was an inside joke among his own bandmates that they lovingly referred to him as the “Susan Lucci of the blues” – a tongue-in-cheek reference to the star of TV’s All My Children who finally won an Emmy after 18 nominations.

The nickname was well deserved when you consider Santini’s history. In the past, he’d been nominated twice for Blues Blast’s Sean Costello Rising Star – edged out by Doug Deming and Lisa Mann in consecutive years — and once each for live album and male artist trophies. And he’d come up short four more times at the BMAs.

“It’s nice to actually win one,” Brandon says. “Being nominated with legends and to be considered a contemporary of someone like Shemekia or Charlie Musselwhite or Kim Wilson (in prior awards seasons), it’s pretty fascinating to me.

“It’s hard to compete with those guys, and you can’t go into it expecting to win. To win this award was actually very exciting.”

Even though Brandon started fooling around with harp in high school, he admits, a career in music was never his dream.

Now based out of Springfield, Ill., his home for the past few years, Santini was born in Chapel Hill, N.C., and raised in Burlington a short drive to the west in the rolling hills of the Piedmont. Like most kids in the mid-‘90s, he was listening to whatever was playing on pop radio: the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The Allman Brothers, Creedence Clearwater Revival and others.

Today, some writers compare his playing style to Paul Butterfield and James Cotton, but Santini’s interest in the instrument came from another direction entirely.

He was just 15 years old in 1997 when he became fascinated with the sounds of John Popper, the New Jersey-born front man of Blues Traveler, the jam band whose platinum album, Straight on Till Morning, was dominating the airwaves propelled by the tunes “Carolina Blues” and “Most Precarious.”

“I wish I could say that I was four years old and listenin’ to the blues and got into it,” Brandon says. “But I was raised around rock-‘n’-roll, classic rock, pop rock, country music. There was very little blues, if any, in my house growin’ up.”

But the way Popper played immediately captivated his attention.

Popper’s never been considered to be a blues artist, although he does demonstrate blues chops on occasion. A multi-instrumentalist who took lessons on piano, cello and guitar before picking up trumpet, he gravitated to the harp in high school and developed his skills after convincing his jazz band instructor to allow him to play it instead of horn. He made a name for himself by producing lightning fast runs on the instrument in a manner that separated him from the crowd.

“It really stood out to me,” Brandon recalls. “It was bein’ used in a way that Bob Dylan and Neil Young – (both of whom played harp in a rack while accompanying themselves on guitar) — weren’t doin’. It was fascinating.

“There was a lot of melodic stuff in his playin’. Being rapid-fire, a lot of it gets lost in the flurry of his notes, but that’s what brought me to it.”

Santini picked up the album, figured out what type of harp Popper was using and then enlisted his mother for a trip to the local music store to buy one for himself. Totally self-taught, a whole new world opened up for him when he discovered the blues and the huge tones produced by Butterfield, Cotton, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson and others.

The sounds they produced were totally different.

brandon santini photo 2Unlike Popper, who was primarily a “lip” player, gliding rapidly across the comb with pursed lips and producing what can only be described as a thinner tone, the bluesmen were a conglomerate of tongue blockers. Their notes were fatter because of the way they played – with the instrument positioned far back in their mouths and producing larger tone by obstructing multiple reed holes with their tongue and channeling wind into their unobstructed target, enabling them far more dynamics.

It took Brandon about three years to master the technique as he mastered an instrument that’s different from any other – an extension of the human body, the only one invented that works in lockstep with the lungs to produce notes no matter whether the musician is breathing in or out. And it’s capable of mimicking laughter, moans and other vocal inflections and train sounds, too.

“When I discovered tongue blocking,” he says, “…holy crap! You can get some huge sounds out of it. My playing today predominantly revolves around a lot of tongue blocks. It opens the scales to you.

“I tell people who are learning: ‘Learn to tongue block because you’re basically gonna open up a whole new world and a whole new dimension of your playing.’”

Santini’s love for the blues took off after he discovered Butterfield for the first time while viewing the movie Blues Brothers 2000.

“I watched because Blues Traveler were in it,” he says. “I hadn’t even seen the original Blues Brothers at the time. I remember (Butterfield’s) ‘Born in Chicago’ comin’ on. I was like: ‘Holy cow!’

“That song was so good – his tone and his playing. What a beast he was!”

From that starting point, Brandon did his homework.

“I started learning who the harp heavyweights were,” he recalls. “I was really turned on by amplified harmonica. So that whole Chicago sound really got me goin’. I was into Cotton at first, then Little Walter. It was a while before I learned about Big Walter and Junior Wells.

“But I went down the road with those heavily amplified guys, then got more into Sonny Boy and Sonny Terry, those guys who played more acoustic. It was quite a different world that I wasn’t quite ready for when I got to playin’.”

Santini started playing with others while still in high school, hooking up on the sly with a guitarist and drummer in the band room. “I was a library assistant durin’ second period,” he remembers. “I picked it up because it was an easy gig. You basically do nothing. So I would do homework and write lyrics, thinkin’ about harmonica and Blues Traveler.

“Every day, pretty much, I’d get a bathroom pass and kinda sneak over to the band room, where these guys were always there by themselves for some reason. We’d play ‘Johnny B. Goode’ or somethin’ every day. Then the band teacher heard me and invited me to sit in on one of their gigs in the town square. That was my first time on stage – that and the school talent show.”

Brandon’s professional career began inauspiciously with a paying gig at age 19 with a Southern rock band, playing the Gov’t Mule version of Elmore James’ “Look on Yonder Wall” as well as a host of Allman Brothers covers.

By then, he already realized his life’s path was through music.

“I wasn’t designed to work a 9-to-5 job or work 40 hours a week at a day job,” he says. “I like the challenge that being a musician presents, seeing a new city every day when I’m on the road. It’s much more of what I’m cut out for.”

He was in his early 20s when he and guitarist friend Justin Sulek formed what would become the band Delta Highway, playing as a duo in Burlington, Elon and Greensboro, N.C., and producing a sound that melded Santini’s progressive harmonica approach to with Sulek’s six-string stylings that hinted of R.L. Burnside and Muddy Waters.

They relocated to Memphis in 2003. “It was Justin’s idea to move,” Brandon says. “This was when the Blues Music Awards were just called the Handy Awards. He said: ‘Man, let’s move to Memphis. We’re gonna win a Handy Award.

“’Let’s just do this thing!’

“I didn’t have much goin’ on back home – nothin’ but trouble to get into – so I said: ‘Hell, yeah. Let’s do it, man!’ Then I said: ‘But who’s gonna sing all the time though?’ (laughs)

“He said: ‘You are!’”

“Oh, boy! Here we go,” Santini said at the time, noting today that he’d sung previously, but “just a little bit. I considered myself an instrumentalist more than a singer – and still do. I just emulate all those blues guys. That’s where I get my influence from.”

It was a pure baptism by fire with no training or lessons involved.

brandon santini photo 3Shortly after they arrived on Beale Street, Delta Highway became a full band with the addition of a rhythm section composed of a pair of blues veterans: former Jason Ricci band bassist Tom “Slim” Louis and drummer Keven Eddy, who’d served time previously with harp players Mojo Buford and Blind Mississippi Morris.

Working regular gigs at Mr. Handy’s Blues Hall, the last true juke joint on Beale Street, where they frequently worked three weeks straight, and touring, too, they represented the Memphis Blues Society in the 2006 International Blues Challenge.

And they almost fulfilled Sulek’s prophecy with their album Devil Got a Woman. A 2009 finalist in the best new artist category in the rebranded Blues Music Awards, it lost out to Cedric Burnside and Lightnin’ Malcolm’s 2 Man Wrecking Crew.

Memphis has changed quite a bit since those days, says Santini. “In 2003, when we got there, there was a vibrant blues scene, although, from what people told me, nothing like it was before.

“Billy Gibson opened my eyes to a whole new world of playing. He took me under his wing a little bit. Victor Wainwright eventually moved there a couple of years later, and we all know where he’s at now.

“The scene was great, very collaborative rather than competitive. Robert Belfour from North Mississippi was still alive, and James Govan, who was a great soul singer, was still around. But it was also a fresh scene that was just developing. You could feel somethin’ happening.

“We were all makin’ okay money, and people were comin’ to see us. But in 2008, when that recession hit, the game changed drastically. The money would start goin’ down in the clubs. Tourism went down, and a lot of the great musicians moved on. But it was such an exciting time to be there, and I’m so-o-o thankful for that – that I was placed there at that exact time.”

Today, the street’s become far more commercial. It’s a gleaming international tourist mecca ablaze with neon and barkers on the street to lure folks into the bars. And, Santini points out, it’s become more difficult for the musicians, many of whom are relying on tips to survive and raise families because they aren’t being paid as much as they were in the past.

Complicating matters, Brandon says, is the fact that some establishments feature karaoke, deejays, old-school R&B and house music despite the fact that their audiences have traveled from the four corners of the earth to immerse themselves in the blues. But, in the real world, he adds, he understands the clubs are businesses that have to do whatever they can to survive, too.

Delta Highway came to a fork in the road after their BMA nomination. Santini started his own band and recorded the album Songs of Love Money and Misery shortly thereafter, and Sulek went off in another direction.

“It was lo-fi and low budget,” he says of the album. “I was just tryin’ to keep the machine goin’. There was no option of quitting for me.”

His band’s dynamic changed dramatically in 2011 with the addition of Jeff Jensen. Now a major star in his own right, the California native had been fronting his own band in Portland, Ore., after rising to prominence in the ‘90s with the Atlanta-based Southern power pop band, Uncle Green.

A gifted guitarist, vocalist and producer, Jensen was fed up with the music business at the time ready to walk away from everything. That all changed when he met Brandon by chance during a stopover in Memphis and accepted his invitation to join him as his guitarist and band leader.

“He was kinda hittin’ the reset button on his life,” Santini recalls, “and it just worked out great. I needed a full-time guy, and a mutual friend of ours introduced us the first night he was there. I invited him out to sit in, and he sounded amazing…had great stage presence.

“Pretty immediately, I went: ‘Hey, man, you want a job?’

“He sure as heck did, man. It was a perfect fit. We both had the understanding that this was a temporary thing — that he was, at some point, goin’ back out and gettin’ the Jeff Jensen Band goin’ again. But we did it for two years.”

Los Angeles-based bassist Bill Ruffino joined the band in 2012, and they recorded Santini’s This Time Another Year CD at the legendary Ardent Studios a short while later. Backed by Ruffino, drummer James Cunningham and organist Chris Stephenson and produced in partnership with Jensen, the album was a BMA nominee for contemporary album of the year, and Brandon was a finalist for harmonica player of the year award, too.

The same lineup was onboard when Jensen relaunched his solo career with the album Road Worn and Ragged. Brandon and Jeff parted company upon its release, and the duo each achieved acclaim in 2015, Jensen with the CD Morose Elephant and Santini with Live and Extended! and Timo Arthur taking over for Jeff on six-string.

The lineups for both of men’s bands has been somewhat interchangeable ever since. Ruffino has anchored the bottom for Jeff since his relaunch along with percussionist David “Alabanimal” Green, who’s worked with both bandleaders, whose bond grew even stronger after their separation.

brandon santini photo 4In 2017, Brandon and Jeff reunited as The Santini-Jensen Project with a lineup that included Arthur, Green and Ruffino for a few select festival dates. As exciting and rewarding as those concerts were, however, Jeff’s own band was crisscrossing the country to promote his new release, Wisdom & Pain, while Brandon was putting the final touches on the material for The Longshot, an album that proved to be far more introspective and more focused on his songwriting skills than anything he’d done before.

“Growin’ up listenin’ to rock and pop and bein’ a Blues Traveler fan, I’m outside of the blues box,” Santini says. “Even though I love traditional blues music and have made a career and name with that, I think that, as an artist, you always have to look at your full canvas. And there’s always a different part of that canvas that you want to start painting.

“There are guys out there in the traditional blues market that are so much better than me. In order to survive in this industry, you have to adapt to the way the business is changing. The Longshot was an effort to do that – along with my own personal satisfaction. Fortunately, my label, American Showplace, was on board with allowing their artists to take chances.

“When you put somethin’ out that’s a little apprehensive. You’re scared. You wonder: Is this gonna flop, or is it gonna be successful?

“But winning the Blues Blast award and getting the great reviews that I did is a great validation for me. The album has really opened doors to clubs I didn’t play before. And to be on the Billboard charts was really a treat when it first came out.”

Despite Santini’s recent success, however, the brotherhood he’d established with Jensen – and the frequent requests from fans that they reunite — was simply too strong to ignore.

“We said: ‘We have to do this – not only for the fans but because we want to do this,” Brandon says. “We started to look at our schedules and how it would fit into our five-year plans. We were able to pinpoint some time where we could get together, start writing and record.”

Reborn as Tennessee Redemption, a name chosen to symbolize the revitalization that they underwent in Memphis, their new band is identical to The Santini-Jensen Project. Their well-received self-titled debut album was released a couple of months ago, and they’d just come off the road from a tour in support of it when this interview took place.

Like American Showplace, Endless Blues Productions provided a home that was very artist-friendly and open to something different, Brandon says.

The disc – a blend of contemporary blues and roots rock — includes eight originals and reinterpretations of Tom Waits’ “Come on Up to the House” and Little Walter’s “Watch Yourself.” And the opener, “Glad to Be,” reflects on their Beale Street experiences.

Response has been so positive that Tennessee Redemption is already booking festival appearances for next year and planning another album, Brandon says. “We all feel that the band is a creative sum that’s greater than me individually or Jeff individually. It makes for a really exciting show, and we’re really excited about it.”

Unlike Southern Hospitality – which brings together Victor Wainwright, J.P. Soars and Damon Fowler – or Royal Southern Brotherhood – a conglomeration of Cyril Neville, Mike Zito and Devon Allman, Tennessee Redemption prefers not to be considered a supergroup, Santini insists.

“I don’t like to use the word,” he says. “But I think the whole collaborative idea is somethin’ really good – that people want to see that. Not only is it enjoyable, but it’s helped me grow as an artist, especially as a songwriter.

“We don’t consider it a ‘project.’ It’s a band – and we’re gonna put a lot of time and effort into it to see where it takes us ‘cause we’re serious about it, man!

“It’s almost like a salt-and-pepper dynamic between Jeff and I,” Brandon adds. “He’s always go-go-go, movin’ around the stage, and I’m kinda a laid-back guy. It’s the perfect fit for this band on and off the stage.”

Check out where Santini and Tennessee Redemption are playing next by visiting
www.brandonsantini.com or
www.tenneseeredemption.com

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.

For other interviews on our website CLICK HERE


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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 4 

al basile cd imageAl Basile – B’s Hot House

Sweetspot Records SST9922

14 songs – 58 minutes

www.albasile.com

Rhode Island-based singer/songwriter/cornetist Al Basile teams up with guitarist/producer Duke Robillard and his outstanding band to deliver this pleasing collection of originals. Inspired by the grooves of Little Junior Parker, Slim Harpo, Booker T and the MG’s and others, the lyrics are chockful of contemporary themes, dashes of sentimentality and wry observations about life and delivered atop charts with a comfortable, old-school feel.

It’s a return to the root for Basile — an eight-time Blues Music Award nominee who possesses a master’s degree from Brown University and spent 25 years teaching English, music and physics in high school before becoming a fulltime musician and writer. As a songwriter, his material has been covered by everyone from Ruth Brown to the Blind Boys of Alabama and Johnny Rawls to jazz great Scott Hamilton.

He took a major leap of faith with his most recent CD, 2018’s successful Me & the Originator, a totally different, 25-cut opus that intermingled originals with spoken words as it told the story of an imaginary musician who stumbled across someone else’s lyrics and set them to song.

A longtime member of Roomful of Blues and someone whose career has been interspersed with Robillard’s since the ‘70s, Basile has always been inspired by the play of horn wizards Roy Eldridge and Miles Davis and their frequent use of the Harmon mute in their play. “It has a penetrating edge that stands up to the sound of the electric guitar,” he says, noting that the device came in handy on this CD because of the difficulties any musician faces when he has to follow one of Duke’s powerful solos.

Duke produced the album, which was recorded at Lakewest Studios in West Greenwich, R.I. His longtime band – keyboard player Bruce Bears, percussionist Mark Teixeira and bassist Brad Hallen – provide the backing with assists from Roomful veterans Doug James and Jeff “Doc” Chanonhouse on tenor sax and trumpet.

The 14th album in his catalog, this one mixes straight blues and R&B as it describes real-life issues. “So-Called Storyteller,” a slow blues, opens with a Robillard six-string solo before Basile answers a critic — who uses the words of the title derisively – by insisting: “I’m not tryin’ to sell you nothin’/I’m givin’ it away for free./No matter what you heard/I didn’t make up a word./I just tell it like it has to be.” Al’s horn drives the message home during an extended mid-tune break.

The loping “Five Roads” offers an invitation to a late to meet him where the streets cross a bay before the Booker T-inspired “Razor Wire.” It compares time spent with a particular lady like a great meal. She’s “sweet to the tooth,” but knows she’s going to feed him barbed strands to chew on before the dinner’s done.

“Try One” soulfully addresses addiction – cleverly without any specifics – before a military drumbeat kicks off “Don’t Fool with the Truth,” which describes someone who “knows lyin’ like a hog knows fat.” The message Al delivers is generic, but has great weight when one applies it to our current political state of affairs. Up next, the romantic, horn-propelled “Give Me That Look” comes across with a Memphis feel and features to-die-for solos, while the percussive “Looking for a Cookie” describes a trip to the county fair and mixes sweets with sexual tension.

“Can’t Keep Me from Dreaming,” a song of unrequited desire, follows before Basile and Robillard trade licks for “I See You There,” which finds the singer spotting his ex and trying to avert his eyes, and “I Ain’t Changing,” in which Al knows it’s useless to alter his lifestyle to please a lady because it’s already too late – a theme that’s driven home in the keyboard-propelled ballad, “You Don’t Know Lonesome.”

The mood brightens with the easy-greasy “What Dogs Wanna Do,” a metaphor that uses canines as it describes how both a man and woman will act when set free to run through town. The pleasant “Talking in a Room” sings praise of conversations before “Time Has Made a Fool of Me,” a complaint about aging, brings the set to a close.

Available through most major retailers, B’s Hothouse features great musicianship and interesting insights throughout. 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.

For other reviews on our website CLICK HERE


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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 4 

jumping matt cd imageJumping Matt & His Combo – Dressed Up

Released September 2018

www.facebook.com/jumpingmattcombo

12 tracks, 41:31 minutes

Based in Balatonalmádi, a town about 50 miles southwest of the Hungarian capital of Budapest, Matyas “Matt” Pribojszki is an accomplished vocalist, harmonica player, and bandleader who began playing harmonica at age 15, having been inspired by a Sonny Boy Williamson recording.

In the mid-90s, his band, The Blues Fools, toured the European blues circuit and recorded three albums. Over the last 15 years, he’s released five albums as the Matyas Pribojszki Band, and has toured extensively (30 countries and counting) throughout Europe and in the U.S. He’s supported or shared the stage with folks like Charlie Musselwhite, Bob Margolin, Duke Robillard, Bill Wyman, Carlos Del Junco, and Tom Jones to name just a few. His energetic on-stage moves have earned him the nickname “Jumpin’ Matt,” and his latest release, Dressed Up, provides a sonic equivalent, with some truly exceptional big-band jumpin’ blues.

Featuring Pribojszki on vocals and harmonica, his combo include Ferenc Szász on guitar, Daniel Molnár on drums, László Csizmadia on bass. They’re joined on this outing by the dozen musicians who comprise the Custom Big Band… and let me tell ya, that’s a LOT of horns! The horn arrangements, by Attila Almasi, are energetic and engaging, and as tight as they come. There are a dozen songs on this CD, all originals with the exception of Big Joe Turner’s classic “Switchin’ in the Kitchen”. From the very first track – “Full-Time Baby” – you’ll be tappin’ your toes and grooving with the band. This band swings hard, and all of the musicianship and performances are solid. From the first moment that I popped this into my cd player, I was hooked!

The songs are mostly up-tempo numbers designed, I imagine, for the dance floor… because when you’re listening to them, it’s extremely difficult to NOT move in time with the beat. The songs are catchy, the band’s playing is hot, and Pribojszki’s harp playing is outstanding. Playing diatonic or chromatic, his playing is imaginative, spirited, technically precise, and most importantly, tasteful… very tasteful!

The album’s title track and opener, “Dressed Up,” is a (very) up-tempo blues that that takes off like a gunshot and lets you know that this band will be kicking ass and taking names. Those horn players really get a workout on this one!

Next up is the minor-key shuffle “Love is Fake”, on which Matt really gives the chromatic a workout.

“Real Good Man” demonstrates that Matt and the band can bring a funk sensibility when the material calls for it. Here, guitarist Szász stretches-out with a crisp solo, followed by a frisky, upper-register solo by Pribojszki.

“Wet Lips” is a jumper, and the horns really cook, as does Pribojszki’s all-too-brief solo. The trombone gets a piece of the action, too, and fits in perfectly with the groove.

The rockin’ boogie shuffle “Can’t Make You Stay” features an energetic slide solo that snakes through the arrangement.

The pulsing Texas-style shuffle of “Hard-Working Man” feels a bit like Stevie Ray, by way of the Buddy Rich Big Band. And it works!

There’s not a bad song on the album, and there’s enough variety in this collection to please most any fan of the blues. The consistently stellar performances ensure that the songs all work together to form a cohesive, thoroughly enjoyable whole.

Dressed Up was recorded by László Válik at L.V. Hang Studio in Budapest, and mixed and mastered by Kid Andersen at Greaseland Studios in San Jose, CA.

This is an album that withstands repeated listenings, and if you’re looking for something to lift your spirits and get your toes tapping, Dressed Up definitely fits the bill. Those of you in the E.U. who have an opportunity to see Pribojski – with either his combo or the big band – should make every effort to do so. And hey, there’s always YouTube, if you can’t get to see them live. Either way, DO IT! You won’t be disappointed!

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. http://www.mojogypsies.com

For other reviews on our website CLICK HERE


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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 4 

terry hanck cd imageTerry Hanck – I Still Get Excited

www.terryhanck.net

Vizztone Label Group

11 songs time-54:03

Terry Hanck can do no wrong in my book. In release after release he continues to display his abilities as a saxophonist, singer, songwriter and producer. His saxophone skills are far and above greater than many average players out there. He must be doing something right because Elvin Bishop employed him in his band for just over a decade. Melody isn’t a foreign concept to him, although he can honk it up when necessary. His music takes elements of blues, R&B, jazz, fifties’ rock and roll and God knows what else to get you moving and moved. Musical elements drift in at times that trigger a musical memory. His singing isn’t an afterthought. Terry’s wonderfully gravelly voice and delivery ooze with super coolness. His own band, augmented by some of the best blues has to offer guarantee superb results. They aren’t here for name recognition, but for the talented performances they bring to the proceedings. With people like Kid Andersen, Jim Pugh, June Core, Rick Estrin, Tracy Nelson and Chris Cain how on earth can you go wrong? That’s not to say his core band of Johhny Cat Soubrand on guitar, bassist Tim Wager and drummer Butch Cousins along with the background singers are anything to sneeze at.

The title song proclaims the vitality he and others feel at an older age and the raging jump blue blues meets fifties’ rock and roll vibe portrays that feeling. Johnny Cat Soubrand delivers Chuck Berry-ish riffing and Jimmy Pugh beats the daylights out of the “88s”. Terry overdubs his own sax section at times along with his solo wailing. The backing vocals of Kid’s wife Lisa Leuschner Andersen and Whitney Shay complete the picture. “Smooth Tyrone” harkens back to Louis Jordan’s way cool hipster jump blues. Needless to say Terry’s and Johnny’s playing are right on the mark.

The band with guitar ace Chris Cain, Jim Pugh’s masterful jazz organ and Terry’s sax raising all melodic hell take your ears on a pleasurable journey as they breath new life into “Early In The Morning”, an iconic blues “chestnut”. At over seven minutes you just don’t want the goodness to stop. The music of “Here It Comes” dredges up memories of the beach with its’ “Under The Boardwalk” musical vibe. Terry trades licks with harmonica master Rick Estrin on “Come On Back”, an enthusiastic Hanck original.

To change up the pace we get a slow dance sax and organ instrumental sans guitar in “Rosita(No Wall Can Hold Our Love)”. The words beautiful and lovely don’t sound over used in this case. The lights are low and you and your girl are easing across the dance floor. For some unknown reason the “Are” is taken out of Bobby Charles’ song and it’s called “Why People Like That”. Thankfully nothing else was removed and in fact Terry updates some of the lyrics to make them relevant to current times in this charging version.

If this hasn’t all been enough the guys deliver a great version of my hero Howlin’ Wolf’s “Howlin’ For My Darlin'”. Johnny manages to closely replicate the original guitar riff. The inimitable Tracy Nelson joins Terry for a duet on the slow and simmering R&B of “Spring”. Two songs that I first heard by the now defunct jump blues band Big Dave & The Ultrasonics from Ann Arbor, Michigan close out the album. Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson’s “Hold It Right There” is given an appropriately sax driven rendition along with Johnny on guitar and Jimmy on organ. Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Feel So Bad” receives a nicely stretched out treatment including Kid Andersen or Wurlitzer piano. What a song to go out on. Terry Hanck and his cohorts can do no wrong. Oops said that earlier…sounds so good I said it once again.

There ya have it sports fans! For my money music just doesn’t get any better than this. It all works. The players here definitely have the right tools for the job. Boy Howdy, I could just go on and on. This is absolutely something your music collection needs.

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

For other reviews on our website CLICK HERE



 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 4 

gracie curran cd imageGracie Curran & friends – Come Undone

www.graciecurran.com

Vizztone Label Group

8 songs time-32:06

In the five years since I reviewed her freshman album Proof Of Love, it appears that her vocal skills have been super charged along with much of her delivery. It’s not that her singing was sub par previously, it’s just that there is a noticeable improvement. Has she been to the crossroads and made a bargain with Lucifer? Nay! Whatever the case there is discernible improvement.

She has enlisted a top notch roster of musicians including Damian Fowler, Victor Wainwright, Reba Russell and Mark Earley among others. Every note of music seems to be well thought out to attain the just right musical atmosphere. Great care was taken in the production by Damon Fowler and Gracie.

The slow but intense R&B of the title song bolstered by the horn section gets things off to a funky start. At times Gracie’s voice is so forceful in her vocal attack renders a few of her lyrics to be difficult to hear. Right away some of the words get blurred. It doesn’t really take away from the powerful vibe, but a lyric sheet would of come in handy.

Victor Wainwright is featured on organ here. The acoustic guitars and backing vocals as the only accompaniment of “Ernestine” give it an airy country-ish feel. It appears to be the name of a town. “Stay Up” kicks thing up with the first rate horn section of Mark Earley and Doug Woolverton and Gracie’s exuberant vocal.

“The Things We Love” bring us back to a higher intensity level. The guitar here as overall fits the mood of the tune. “Sweet Sativa” is an ode to the killer weed. Full disclosure I never heard that term for it. A particular strain I see. Nice easy flowing slide guitar on this one presumably by Damon Fowler, as that is among his calling cards. The driving and sassy “If Mama Ain’t Happy” harkens back to female boogie-woogie tunes of old. It showcases the piano styling’s of Mr. Victor Wainwright.

Are you ready for more deeply felt intensity? Then get set for the slow burn of “Love Is The Cruelest Thing I Know” with Wurlitzer piano by Matt Walker. Some of the best lyrics of this album. Things are concluded front porch slide guitar style as Gracie yearns for home and some body heat on “Chasing Sunsets”.

Nothing but a first class presentation on this nifty little album. Minor quibble-the relatively short length, but heck, not sure if my brain could handle more of the emotions contained in this potent package.

In my review of her first effort I predicted better things to come and here it is.

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

For other reviews on our website CLICK HERE


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 Blues Society News 


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The Charlotte Blues Society – Charlotte, NC

Sun Nov. 3rd: 8-10pm: doors at 7pm Crank Sinatra – Blues Youth Group featured Artist at The Rabbit Hole 1801 Commonwealth Ave. Special performance by the young group of musicians know as “Crank Sinatra”. As an affiliate of the Blues Foundation, we have the privilege of selecting a youth group to sponsor for the trip to Memphis. At our October 6th event, the “Crank Sinatra” was formed initially as a trio, Alex Macri, Trey Tarzia and Luke Tracy. They added 2 horn players Matthew Seeley and Greg Rubidge in early 2019 and have been performing extensively throughout the area at various venues. Come out and support the next generation of blues!

The show will be held 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. 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 https://charlottebluessociety.org.

Crossroads Blues Society – Rockford, IL

Crossroads Blues Society has many shows coming up in the Rockford, IL area. The monthly shows at the Hope and Anchor in Loves Park continue $5 cover, 8 to 11:30 PM: Sat Nov 9th – Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Altar Boys featuring Westside Andy Linderman, Sat Dec 14th – Ivy Ford. Radisson Hotel and Convention Center, Rockford, IL, 7 to 10 PM $10 admission Sat Nov 23rd – Nick Schnebelen. Lyran Society, Rockford, IL, 7 to 10 PM No Cover Fri Nov 1st – Harpo’s Revue, Fri Nov 15th – Ivy Ford.

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. Oct 28 Brother Jefferson Band, Nov 4 Mike Morgan & The Crawl, Nov 11 Susan Williams & The Wright Groove, Nov 18 Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat.

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. Texas comes to the Kankakee Valley: November 6 – Mike Morgan & The Crawl – Kankakee Valley Boat Club, November 19 – Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat – Manteno Sportsmen’s Club. More Info at: http://www.facebook.com/friendsoftheblues.



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