Issue 14-2 January 9, 2020

Cover photo © 2020 Marilyn Stringer

 In This Issue 

Mark Thompson has our feature interview with Blues rock sensation Alastair Greene. We have 6 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Simon Kinny-Lewis, The Night Walkers, Charlie Karp, Blast Lane, Tad Robinson and Slim & The Perkolators.

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



 Featured Interview – Alastair Greene 

imageThroughout life, we are constantly reminded good things come to those who work hard, play fair, and remain persistent in the face of the inevitable adversities. There is also the message that the key to happiness is an appreciation and thankfulness for what you have. For guitarist Alastair Greene, the philosophy of simply saying “yes” whenever new opportunities present themselves has been a key to making progress throughout his career.

Like a lot of youngsters, Greene started out on piano. “ Growing up, I knew that I wanted to play music. But I didn’t listen to much piano or saxophone stuff. Piano lessons are usually the first thing parents typically ask their child about, or not. Maybe the kid doesn’t have a choice! The saxophone came as a result of going to school at the start of the day and going to the cafeteria, where they would have all of theses instruments laid out. You got to pick what you wanted to play. I think it was in fourth grade that I picked the sax. Because of that, I learned how to read music, and played the sax for eleven years. I only played piano for a couple of years. I never really listened to jazz records or rock bands that had horns, even though I was into rock & roll”.

“I didn’t feel the pull towards playing anything close to the kind of music I was actually listening to until I was in junior high, at which point I started playing bass. After about a year and a half, I figured I might as well play guitar, which I did during my freshman year of high school. I was enjoying playing music all along, but guitar allowed me to emulate the music that I was actually listening to at that time, which was the hard rock of that era. On piano and sax, I didn’t really have a chance to play with other people outside of the fifth grade band at school. But the guitar allowed me to play with other like-minded kids, to begin creating music of our own. That was one of the light bulb moments that I have had over the years”.

Forming a band with some friends, Greene started playing live shows during his junior year of high school. The next year found them leaving Santa Barbara, trying to break their hard rock act in clubs in the Hollywood, CA area. Then a friend of his father loaned Greene some records to listen to, including the classic B.B. King Live At The Regal plus records by Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, the Allman Brothers Band, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

“Those albums were a great introduction to a cross-section of music. I had been taking guitar lessons, and my instructor gave me a cassette tape, that I still have, telling me that if I wanted to play rock & roll, I needed to learn some of the songs on the tape. It included Freddie King doing “Hideaway,” a couple from Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, Cream, and the Ventures. But the real mind-blower was getting the albums to listen to, which connected all the dots for me guitar-wise”

“My favorite hard rock or heavy metal guitar players at that time had some connection to blues rock. So the players I was gravitating to had been influenced by Johnny Winter, Rory Gallagher, and Eric Clapton from the Cream era. Hearing B.B., Johnny, Buddy, and Stevie Ray, it all made sense as that was what I was enjoying in the players I was listening to at the time. One was Eddie Van Halen, who you really couldn’t escape if you were a guitar player growing up in the 1980 decade. Another one was Jake E. Lee, who played on a couple of Ozzy Osbourne records. Then he started his own band, Badlands, that sounded something like Led Zeppelin. He was a huge inspiration, as was Vivian Campbell, who was in Dio and Whitesnake, and now plays with Def Leppard. He was considered a virtuoso guitar player in the day. That was where I heard about Rory Gallagher, because Vivian was also from Ireland and mentioned Rory in an interview”.

The story gets even more interesting as Greene transitions from playing hard rock in bands with friends to studying at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston after his high school graduation. “ I was playing guitar in the high school jazz band, even though I was not a very competent jazz player. My chordal knowledge was pretty limited but I could fake my way around to some extent. A good friend of mine was playing bass in the band. Typically in those bands they have the better guitar players on bass guitar. He was very knowledgeable in jazz, so I got help from him. At one point, we did a jazz band competition in Orlando at Disney World. There was a representative from Berklee there, a guy who was handing out some scholarships. I guess I played something cool in one of my solos because I was awarded one of the scholarships”.

“It was one of those times when the stars were aligned, so I figured I should go to music school. It was a partial scholarship, so my grandmother put some money away, and I did a year at City College in Santa Barbara before moving to Boston. I did the Berklee thing for two years before heading back home. I did not graduate. I had come to the realization that while a degree in music was cool, and could help secure a job at a university or teaching, my goal was to be writing songs and performing in bands. I felt Berklee had given me a solid base of knowledge, but the real experience was going to come from playing gigs with a lot of different musicians. It came down to staying there for another couple of years figuring out how to construct jazz tunes with all of those expensive chords, or I could just start playing in bands. I opted to get back to playing”.

image“While at Berklee, I was exposed to a lot of advanced music. I got to see acts like Frank Zappa and the Dixie Dregs. As I was just getting into blues music, which was really in the forefront of my consciousness, one cool thing that occurred was I got to hear Ronnie Earl play. He came to the school to do a clinic, or a master class. Another was that I went to see Albert Collins in a club outside the city, with my fake ID in hand! No one wanted to go with me, but a friend had just turned twenty-one, so he gave me his ID. I got on the train and off I went to the outskirts of Boston, where I saw Albert and Lonnie Mack opening the show. I think this was around 1991. I tried to seek out those kinds of shows while at Berklee. Had I been a bit more knowledgeable, I’m sure I would have been able to find a lot more”.

Returning home, Greene connected with a friend of his dad’s, drummer Tom Lackner, who was a member of the Pontiacs at that time, led by harmonica ace Mitch Kashmar. “I called Tom and told him I was looking to do stuff, into the blues. He invited me to come see the band and possibly sit in with them. So it was a typical story that this kid, although I was twenty-one at the time, was showing up at the gigs wanting to learn about the music from guys that were ten-plus years older than me. Then I met a singer and we formed a blues/rock band. It was hard at that time, and even still today, to find players dedicated to just blues, so you often may have to compromise your musical vision. That first band lead to another band, where I started singing. And that took me to the point where I started a band under my own name in 1997, with Tom on drums and Jack Kennedy, also from the Pontiacs, on bass. I was out of my mind excited that I was doing my first blues/rock trio with these two guys I had been idolizing because they had been out there playing the real shit with Mitch and some great guitar players”.

“We played a lot locally and regionally, got some cool gigs opening for the Fabulous Thunderbirds of the Kid Ramos era a couple times, plus John Mayall, Lonnie Brooks, and Robin Trower. But we never did much touring because the other guys had already been out there doing it. We played a lot but I had to have some day jobs because I wasn’t able to make ends meet with just music. We recorded my first record in 2000, which was the culmination of me getting my chops together in those early years. It was a self-release entitled A Little Wiser, with Mitch guesting on a couple tracks. It was blues/rock with a slow blues and we rocked out a Muddy Waters cover. It is now out-of-print”.

By 2008, Greene had some younger band members and started getting out of town, heading to the Central Valley and the Bay area, sticking to the West Coast. “I was playing in lots of other bands, including an R&B-funk-Latin band plus some other blues bands. I basically said yes to any opportunity that came up. You learn the way of the mercenary. There were a couple of bands where I was the regular guy, other bands where I was the sub, and I would do projects with artists. My rule was to just say “yes” if someone calls to have you play guitar, because you never know where it is going to lead you. So I played with an Americana-country artist, an Americana jam band and several blues singers”.

“I had always wanted to make music my sole source of income. But in southern California, or maybe anywhere else, that is easier said than done. But the stars finally aligned when I was working at a music venue in the ticket office. When the season is over, they let you go. So I went on unemployment. At that point, a friend of mine was giving up some of his guitar students. I had done some teaching off and on, so I gave lessons at a local music store. With the gigs I was doing with the band, I was able to segue out of working for anybody else, which I was able to do in 2006. As teacher, I tried to get the students to have fun, and to play things that would inspire them to want to practice. Then, whether it is a Green Day song or a Beatles tune, you have to work hard at it if you really want to get it. There aren’t many people that just pick up a guitar and are naturally able to play it”.

That rule about simply saying “yes” came into play in a big way a bit further down the road. “In late 2000, I had hooked up with a radio DJ in town on the big classic rock station. He had an Americana band that also did country and wanted me to do some guitar overdubs on the recording he was working on, and do some live shows. He was recording in a home studio, owned by Alan Parsons. My friend had met Alan at some charity event after Alan moved to the area, and they had hit it off. Alan popped into the studio, we met, and he got to hear me play. He asked me for my phone number at the end of the session, and a year later, he called to ask me to play on his record. That record, A Valid Path, came out in 2004. Until recently, that was Alan’s last studio recording.”.

image“In 2009, when his guitar player then, Godfrey Townsend, had a scheduling conflict, Alan asked me to sub for Godfrey on a West coast tour. This was a major thing, because even though I had been playing in a lot of bands, it meant I had to move my playing up several levels, jumping a few steps. I did the tour and all was well. At the end of the year, Parsons decide he wanted to revamp his band, as band leaders will sometimes do. Early in the new year, he offered me the guitar position in the Alan Parson’s Project. It was a steep learning curve. I had played a handful of big shows, opening for touring bands. But this was a different level. Also, Alan’s music wasn’t something I grew up listening to, so I had to dive in to learn it. It wasn’t natural, but I did grow to appreciate it. You have to perform the songs the way people are expecting to hear them. You don’t just jam out, calling for a blues in A. The songs are crafted and you tend to play the solo that is on the record. It got me out touring the world, playing giant shows. That was a lot of fun”.

Still, Greene wasn’t playing music that was close to his heart. As time went on, the gig slowly became more of a job. “His touring schedule wasn’t so crazy busy. There was time for me to do my band, and I did release a couple more albums during that period. But I couldn’t book anything that far out in advance. Sometimes I would have to cancel shows because Alan’s stuff took precedence. I made the decision to leave for a variety of reasons. One telling point that let me know I had made the right decision was that a few months after leaving, I realized that I didn’t miss playing any of his songs. It was the right decision for my musical soul. It doesn’t matter if I never play “Eye In The Sky” again”.

“One interesting point is, that in the blues/rock world where I have chosen to exist musically, my time with Alan Parsons doesn’t have much bearing on anything other than perhaps my credibility as a guitar player. There wasn’t any sort of heavy blues influence, so even contacts I made or people that I met don’t cross over to the blues community. So staying with his band, playing music that is about as far away from the blues as you can get, may have hurt my standing. I certainly don’t regret the chance to tour the world and play hit songs for lots of people. That experience is what you dream about when you are a kid learning how to play. But the time had come for me to roll the dice on playing music that was closer to my heart”.

The years of saying “yes” to most opportunities had given Greene the training and skills to exist in disparate musical environments, a talent that certainly helped his economic well-being. “I don’t consider myself to be a fantastic guitar player. But I am curious about different styles of music. And I have to pay the bills. Living in southern California is fantastic, but it is not the easiest place to exist on a musician’s salary. Thank God that I have an amazing wife who has a good job. Over these years of working for myself, I have done the best I can. I like to play guitar, this has been offered to me, so I have to go do it. I am not a progressive rock guitar player, which is the closest label I can think of for Alan’s music. But I had enough interest in Pink Floyd and other stuff that playing with him wasn’t out of the realm of possibilities”.

Another high profile gig came about due to connection made on a Parson’s tour. “We did a European tour in 2013. The guy that sang most of Alan’s material had a prior commitment. So they brought in Kip Winger to handle lead vocals. His band, Winger, was criminally under-rated in the 1980s as a metal band, but they were the bast musicians on the scene at the time. Kip was nominated for a classical composition Grammy Award a few years ago, which speaks to the level of talent in Alan’s band. Winger has two guitar players. They don’t tour much, so the band members get to do other things. One of their guys was playing in Starship. They also had a tour planned and needed a sub for some gigs. Winger asked me if I was interested. Here again, I didn’t know the song list. But you just say yes even if you are in way over your head. The second show I did with Starship in 2014 was opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd in front of thirty thousand fans in Florida at a festival. I haven’t done extensive touring with them, but I do fill in as needed. Their singer, Mickey Thomas, is a monster. It is a challenge because their music is not as easy as one might think. There is such a thing as bad keys for guitar players. And most of Starship’s hits are in bad guitar keys. Come on, not F or B flat!”

In 2018, Greene released Live At The 805, a two disc set that was the eighth under his name, including two other live recordings. The recording was nominated for a 2019 Blues Blast Music Award in the Rock Blues Album category. “I was proud of the studio record we did before that, Dream Train, and Live At The 805 certainly is a good representation of where I was at musically at that point in time, and another proud moment. I thought it was a good time to celebrate after all of the other crazy opportunities. We played some older material and included a handful of cover tunes. Jim Rankin, the bass player, had been in the band for a decade. The recording sounds amazing and we all played really well. It was gratifying to get all of the accolades and attention, which I wasn’t expecting. I didn’t see the Blues Blast nomination coming! It was awesome, as was making a number of best-of-the-year lists”.

imageIn 2019, Greene took advantage of another opportunity that came his way. He connected with singer Sugaray Rayford at the time that guitarist Gino Matteo was leaving Rayford’s band. “A big challenge for most bands is getting consistent bookings, especially if you don’t have a really good agent helping you. There are a handful of artists who are able to conjure up the skill set necessary to generate consistent bookings. I am not one of those individuals! There aren’t a lot of gigs in southern California, or the West coast in general. Most of the gigs are found east of the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River”. So I was struggling to get out there with my band. I had a booking agent who didn’t deliver as promised, so I was mostly sitting around after putting out two great records that I thought were going to get me over the hump”.

“Playing with Sugaray gave me a chance to get back on the road playing music that was close to my heart. I knew that it would not be a permanent position for me. Some people had recommended me, partly because he was looking for West coast players. The audition went well, and he offered me the position. So I got to play a bunch of funky soul blues for a year. We got lots of recognition, including a Blues Blast nomination in the Blues Band category. Sugaray just got nominated for a Grammy, so I kind of feel like I did my job. But his schedule is pretty intense, so it didn’t leave much time for my thing. There has to be balance. Since I had just signed a deal with Tab Benoit’s Whiskey Bayou Records label, it was time to get back to my music. The songs are written for the new album and mostly recorded. We still need to do some mixing and see if we want to make any changes. I think the record will surprise some people. It is a blues/rock record with a funky Louisiana rhythm section that hopefully will be out by early summer”.

These days Alastair leans toward using his Gibson Les Paul guitar with his band. While he was playing with Rayford, he featured a Fender Stratocaster as the sound of that guitar seemed to be a better fit for the singer’s music. As far as amplifiers, like a lot of blues players, he utilizes some classic Fender combo amps. He also has been working with some amps that have more of a “rock” sound to them. Two models he is currently working with are a Red Seven, from a company in Italy, and a Hughes & Kettner model made in Germany. He has never been too involved with effects pedals, although many of the bands he has played with required using pedals sparingly.

Greene remains open to whatever the cosmos has in store for him. “I really appreciate the fact that people are still coming out to listen to this music. And I have fun whenever I get the chance to get out of my comfort zone. It has been nice to make in-roads in the blues community, which started in 2014 with my release Trouble At Your Door, on the Eclecto Groove Records, a division of the Delta Groove Records, which was a real record label. I am still working really hard to get to the next level. There are a lot of people telling you no, people not getting back to you when you are trying to book a gig at their venue. So when you do get a positive review or get nominated for an award, you realize you don’t suck, and get the positive reinforcement that it takes to keep moving forward”.

Visit Alastair’s website for information on his live shows at

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 former 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 – 1 of 6 

imageSimon Kinny-Lewis – A Day In San Jose

SKL Music

9 songs, 40 minutes

Most musicians, and especially guitarist, love to play classic covers: the standards. It is a way for us to feel connected to our influences and show off all that foundational riffage that we learned when we were in the musical incubator that is awkward adolescence (which probably wasn’t cool then, but is now). Australian fusion guitar phenom, Simon Kinny-Lewis’ A Day In San Jose is just this kind of indulgent record of Blues standards. The incendiary guitarist has progressively been transforming his music from instrumental post 70’s fusion rock-jazz abstraction to singing rootsy Blues-Rock-Jazz hybrids. This newest all covers album is a sidebar, a companion piece to Kinny-Lewis’ evolving style; a quick, in the moment, meditative blast of Blues historical interpretation.

A Day In San Jose is a one off. Literally recorded live in the studio one day in San Jose, Kinny-Lewis and a strong mostly California based band, charge through the 9 songs with reckless abandon. Harmonica ace Andy Just is featured and brings a level of authenticity to the old school material and rough counterpoint to Kinny-Lewis’ fluidity. Nate Ginsberg on keyboards adds depth and atmosphere and takes a few well structured solos. Walter Jebe adds slide guitar giving variation and added voice. Tony Boyd on drums and Dewayne Pate on bass lay down a solid rock foundation for all the proceedings. This band runs through well tread Blues workhorses with solid fidelity: “Further on Up the Road,” “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” “Walking Blues” and a swinging up tempo pass at “Have You Ever Loved a Woman.” All fairly straight ahead arrangements and performances with a rock crack to them as opposed to the poly rhythmic shuffle of the originals.

A Day In San Jose really blooms and takes flight when Kinny-Lewis pushes his fluid highly effected fusion chops. A scorching take of Clapton’s arrangement of “Crossroads” blasts out the gate at a breakneck speed. Kinny-Lewis covered “Crossroads” on his 2017 acoustic album Catfish. Here, Simon is channeling the Cream-era Clapton, feverishly biting each of his impassioned vocal lines with soaring and decidedly modern guitar fireworks. Equally powerful, but more syncopated, is the upfront reading of Robben Ford’s “Chevrolet.” Adding menace and conviction, Kinny-Lewis does a fine job covering Ford, the guitarists’ guitar-god. Kinny-Lewis simmers and burns on the slow Blues take of Buddy Holly’s “Raining in My Heart” written by the hit making couple Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. “Raining” is a truly transcendent moment on this album. The pyrotechnics and locomotive surge of the other material is set aside and Kinny-Lewis is given the space to simply stand and testify the real deal Blues. Staying true to his identity by continuing to play with a thoroughly modern sound and style, Simon creates a moment of intersection in which tradition, modern approaches and personal style are enriched by pure emotional release.

Simon Kinny-Lewis is doing that most noble of musical work – finding personal expression through tradition and technique. The final number on A Day In San Jose is a take on the Delta classic “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” Using Smooth Jazz lushness and thrillingly articulate instrumental passages, Kinny-Lewis and band honor the emotional depth of Blind Willie Johnson’s original by holding fast to their musical aesthetic and concept. This song is a fitting end to this album. Moving through standard reads to hyped up deconstruction and finally unique personal expression, Simon Kenny-Lewis ends, hopefully, with a marker of things to come.

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.


 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 6 

imageThe Night Walkers – Struttin’

Steeplejack Music – 2019

10 tracks; 33 minutes

Roger Wade is an expatriate Brit living and working in Germany. His last two albums were reviewed favorably in Blues Blast: 2017’s Good Rockin’ House Party was a full band release by Little Roger & The Houserockers and the 2018 album The Schoolhouse Sessions featured Roger’s harp and vocals with his wife Marion on piano and guitarist Balta Bordoy in a looser, semi-acoustic format. The new album strips things back even more as Roger’s harp and vocals are supported only by Jens Turowski (a.k.a. Brother Snakeoil of the band Brother Snakeoil & The Medicine Men) who plays a variety of guitars and shares the vocals with Roger. However, this is far from a gentle acoustic affair as the duo covers songs by a variety of blues artists alongside four original songs.

The album opens with George ‘Harmonica’ Smith’s “Before You Do Your Thing” with Roger on vocals and Snakeoil setting a groove that recalls Jimmy Reed (whose loping rhythms are typified on the cover of “Hush Hush” which appears later on the disc with Snakeoil doing a fair impression of Jimmy’s vocal style as Roger blows some high register harp behind him). Roger provides three originals: “Take Me Home” is a classic drinking song, Roger ‘somewhat inebriated’ at the end of the evening and needing to be driven home; Snakeoil gets his slide out for “You Left Me” as Roger bemoans the loss of his lover; the title track “Struttin’” is a harp-driven instrumental that shows what a strong player Roger is. Look away if you are easily offended as Snakeoil takes over on vocals for his irreverent song “Pissing On Your Grave” – clearly a disgruntled man!

“Six Strings Down” is a tribute to the fallen Stevie Ray Vaughan written by his brother Jimmie and some of the Neville Brothers which originally appeared on Jimmie’s 1994 album Strange Pleasures. Roger plays some moody harp on the song behind Snakeoil’s vocals. The duo then tackles a couple of songs which contain more than a little risqué innuendo: Walter Davis’ “Think You Need A Shot” is a slower tune with plenty of Chicago blues feel before the tempo rises with Otis Spann’s “Popcorn Man”. The album closes with the traditional gospel tune “You Gotta Move” which is played pretty straight with Snakeoil on doom-laden slide and Roger leaving his harp to one side to concentrate on the vocals.

This is an enjoyable album of straight down the line traditional blues with a few classics and originals that fit right in. What’s not to like about that?

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 – 3 of 6 

imageCharlie Karp – Back To You

Red Parlor Records

11 songs, 44 minutes

Charlie Karp was an enduring and soulful guitarist. He was Buddy Miles’ guitarist throughout his Them Changes period opening for Hendrix on the road. Karp struck out on his own starting in the 70’s fronting bands with provocative and fun loving names like White Chocolate, Dirty Angles, the Name Droppers and Slo Leak. A go to session musician for all types of roots music and an educator, Karp paid the bills by writing and recording corporately for ESPN, CBS Sports, HBO Sports and Xerox (he even wrote “The Incredible, Edible Egg” jingle). Sadly Karp died in March 2019, two weeks after being diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer and three months before the release of Back to You. Had he survived, Karp would have seen Back To You be a triumphant return to recording original material and a launch for continued performance opportunities. As a posthumous release, the album is a beautiful self-eulogy in which Karp and producer/keyboardist Vic Steffens run down many different forms of American Roots music and celebrate a venerable career.

The music on Back To You is bulletproof. Each song is as tight and well executed as the last. Sounding effortlessly loose and fluid, the music belies the depth of feel and emotive sensitivity required to perform at such an organic and professional level. The musicians are a who’s who of side men and women culled from some of the most elite bands around including Johnny Winter’s former crew and the SNL band. Supporting Karp on vocals, guitars, bass and drums and producer/recording studio owner Vic Steffens on piano and organ are:

Rafe Klein – guitar, vocals; Carole Sylvan – background vocals, lead vocals; Scott Spray – bass; Bobby Torello – drums; Ron Rifkin – piano, organ; Jay Gerbino – bass; Mike Marble – drums; Joe Meo – saxophones; Christine Ohlman – vocals; David Hull – bass; Bill Holloman – saxophones; Alice Karp – background vocals; Jimmie Smith – keyboards; William Light – slide guitar

The most effective songs on Back To You are the medium to fast tempo Soul and R&B tracks. Karp is able to show off his formidable yet tasteful guitar chops and his throaty spoken warble is used for best effect. Opener “Runnin’ Back to You” is a classic big horn burner. The whole track drips with Muscle Shoals and Memphis 60’s and 70’s cool. The Honky Tonk cool of “The Blame,” duet lead vocals with Rafe Klein, two-beats it’s way through JJ Cale territory. “Show Me The Money” is a wild Mustang Sally riffed duet with Carole Sylvan. Karp and Sylvan are having a ball on the raucous “Money.” Sylvan is extorting the dejected Karp to shower her with material wealth at times asking him to sell his blood and in a sadly ironic turn telling him to change his will. It is a delight and the music is so tough and sassy.

“Show Me The Money” would be the album winner if Karp and company hadn’t covered the Beatles “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” Singing with a Tom Waits howl, this performance is Karp’s most idiosyncratic, and most compelling. Karp twists and pounds this Beatles bopper into an unrecognizable Blues stomp. William Light offers a slithering slide lead. Your reviewer was duped by this transformation, shocked when the promotional material read that it was a Beatles cover. Lots of people cover the Beatles, few people transform the Beatles.

Charlie Karp was a legend and an important musical warrior. He ground out a living being true to his art and working the side hustle. It is sad to listen to the vibrancy and power of Karp’s music and know that he did not survive to see it come to full fruition. We are lucky to be honored with a final artistic statement.

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.


 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 6 

imageBlast Lane – Adventures In Modern Blues

Self-Release – 2019

8 tracks; 48 minutes

Blast Lane is a district of Sheffield in Yorkshire, UK and gives this band their name. On their debut CD all the material was written, arranged and performed by the band which is Chillo Angelini (guitar/vocals), Allen Walton (bass/B/V’s) and Steve Crewe (drums/keyboards and studio engineer). From the band’s Facebook page it looks as if they play mainly in their local area but, as they are also recording a second album, no doubt hope to expand out from there.

The music here is firmly blues-rock and harks back to British bands like Free, Purple and Zeppelin – lots of chunky riffs, brooding bass and solid drums behind Chillo’s gruff vocals. The band’s PR sheet proclaims that this is ‘Blues-Rock as it should be’ and that seems a pretty fair description.

Bright guitar chords with lots of echo open “Help Me”, Chillo asking someone to help him “turn my life around”, the song developing into a good slow rocker. “Things ain’t always what they appear” sings Chillo as he explains that “The Devil Is A Woman”, a heavy, jagged tune. The ‘b’ word appears in the title of the next song, “Blues Came Along” which starts with a wash of cymbals and echoey guitar before developing an attractive, loping rhythm with some good harmonies. There is a short tease of Zeppelin’s “How Many More Times” at the beginning of “Red”, a plodding rocker that pays tribute to a redhead with distorted vocals on the first verse; Chillo’s solo on “Say Goodbye” uses plenty of agonized wah-wah tone to underline the angst of the song.

The lengthy “Long Way From Home” has some diverse influences, combining Pink Floyd sound effects (is that a theremin in the background?) and Chillo’s vocals low in the mix, then developing into a tune with some good harmonies that recall CSNY. The last two numbers are slower-paced, enabling us to hear Chillo’s vocals rather better than on the heavier tunes: “Fight Another Day” features a good rock-influenced guitar solo set against a background of keys while “The Last Forever” finds Chillo playing in a relaxed, country-tinged style before he sets off on a full-throttle rave-up on the coda.

The UK scene has a lot of blues-rockers and these guys have the advantage of writing their own material and would, one imagines, offer a good live experience. There is not much here that a traditional blues fan would want to hear but those who enjoy the rockier end of the spectrum should check this one out.

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.


 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6 

imageTad Robinson – Real Street

Severn Records 0076

10 songs – 45 minutes

Indianapolis-based Tad Robinson simply simmers and smokes on this CD, continuing a legacy that’s earned him nine nominations as Blues Music Association soul-blues singer in the year. And he did it in style with backing from the legendary Hi Rhythm Section — organist Charles Hodges, his brother Leroy on bass and Howard Grimes on percussion – hands down, the most important sessions players ever to set foot in a Memphis studio.

A native of New York City who grew up listening to both Stax and Motown, Robinson has been a fixture in both Chicago and Indianapolis, Ind., since the early ‘80s. A former music student at Indiana University, he fronted the Hesitation Blues Band, but fell in love with the Windy City as a student and quickly relocated there in pursuit of his dreams.

Following in the footsteps of former Hi artists O.V. Wright, Syl Johnson and Otis Clay, his honeyed vocals and often overlooked skill at playing harmonica came to the fore as a member of The Fabulous Fish Heads, a long-running unit formed by young sidemen who also played with Sunnyland Slim, Big Walter Horton, Lonnie Brooks, Otis Rush and others.

His debut as a headliner came in 1994, when Delmark Records released his One to Infinity CD after serving as front man for guitarist Dave Specter’s Bluebirds. That featured guest spots from Specter, Rod Piazza guitarist Alex Schultz and the late Robert Ward, a founding member of The Ohio Untouchables/Ohio Players.

This disc is Tad’s fourth on the Severn imprint since joining the label in the mid-2000s. His most recent previous foray into the studio came in 2018, when he reunited with former Fish Heads Steve Freund, Ken Saydak, Harlan Terson and Marty Binder as Rockwell Avenue Blues Band for the well-reviewed straight-ahead blues Back to Chicago album.

Robinson handles vocals and delivers occasional harp on Real Street, an unhurried set of six originals and four covers that was captured at Electraphonic Recording in Memphis and Severn Sound Studios in Annapolis, Md. In addition to the Hi Rhythm Section, he’s joined here by Joe Restivo on guitar, Kevin Anker on Wurlitzer electric piano, Marc Franklin on trumpet and Kirk Smothers on saxophone with Devin B. Thompson adding additional vocals.

The grooves hit you hard and heavy from the opening notes of the original, “Changes,” which insists that only love can bring about change in a world of constant opposition, and run deep throughout. Robinson’s pipes are oh so slightly road worn – not surprising since he’s been at it for four decades. But his sweet tenor consistently cuts like a knife atop flawless backing.

Tad gets introspective for “Full Grown Woman,” in which wonders how he could have possibly acted in a way that made his lady “put him on the shelf” – while realizing she’s “a full-grown woman.” The ballad “Search Your Heart” follows and prays for a reconciliation, breathing new life into a forgotten classic first laid down by George Jackson in 1968.

The mood brightens slightly for the self-penned “Love in the Neighborhood,” a slow-paced remembrance of driving past a former home and remembering what used to be, but the regret runs deep, fueled by plaintive harp runs, as Robinson recounts the affair with a neighbor that cost him everything. “Wishing Well Blues” is up next with Tad coming to terms with the fact that his lady truly is gone – along with a portion of his heart and soul, too – as he invokes hope she’ll find happiness down the road.

A trio of interesting, upbeat covers follow, beginning with a stellar reworking of Roy Orbison’s 1988 “You Got It,” a tender love song that’s in stark contrast of what’s come before, followed by a take on Charles Watts’ “You Are My Dream” and David Gates’ “Make It With You,” a chart-topper for the group Bread when it debuted in 1970.

The original title tune, “Real Street,” picks up speed into a medium-fast shuffle as Tad insists he’s got to “keep my feet movin’ on down Beale Street” before the tasty “Long Way Home” brings the album to a close, continuing the message of loneliness as it describes plans for driving the back roads and taking time returning because there’s no one at home to greet him.

There’s good reason that this CD and Tad Robinson have been nominated for soul-blues album and of the year in the 2020 Blues Music Awards. It’s sensational. Pick it up. You won’t be disappointed.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6 

imageSlim & The Perkolators

8th Train Records – 2019

15 tracks; 61 minutes

This is the debut release from a band based in Pennsylvania. Formed five years ago, the band is axed round experienced guitarist Tim ‘The Perkolator’ Perks and young harmonica player Derek ‘Harmonica Slim’ Matteson, supported by Dave Young on bass and Sean McIntyre on drums; piano is added to three tracks by Adam Darer and B3 to one track by Eric Christian. The CD was produced by another harp player Mikey Junior who contributes some backing vocals alongside recording engineer Peter Richon, Tim, Derek and Dave. Tim and Derek share the lead vocals, Tim on eight songs, Derek on six, with one instrumental. Tim wrote seven songs, Derek three and there are five covers: Willie Dixon, Louis Myers, Otis Rush, Magic Sam and Little Walter– an impressive list indeed! The album was mastered by Dave Gross at his Fat Rabbit Studios in New Jersey.

Tim’s biography reveals that he grew up in England but relocated to the USA years ago. He has played with many local acts and references a host of guitarists in a long list of influences – the Three Kings, T-Bone Walker and Chuck Berry amongst them. Derek only started playing harmonica in his early twenties but after seeing Mikey Junior and Steve Guyger he became obsessed with the instrument. The band’s gig list is extensive and, as well as playing a lot in their local area, they also tour and will be representing the Central Delaware Blues Society at the 2020 International Blues Challenge.

Both front men sing well, Derek having the slightly deeper voice and from the off this is a great release of traditional blues with no overplaying on harp or guitar. The originals are all solid, not a clunker amongst them: check out Derek’s swinging “South Street Shuffle” or his wailing harp on “Here I Am Again”, Tim’s dark and brooding tune which also has a fine guitar solo with hints of latin contained within it. The album opens with the driving “Trying So Hard”, followed by “Going To See My Baby”, a co-write between Derek and producer Mikey, an infectious tune with great rhythm work from Tim and a strong vocal and scintillating harp from Derek.

The band shows it can swing on two shorter tunes, both penned by Tim: “Can’t Keep A Good Man Down” swings like crazy and you can guess what “Jump With You Baby” is going to be from the title, the tune sounding a little like an old Sam Myers/Anson Funderburgh tune. “Sitting And Thinking” has more of a boogie sound over which Derek weaves some great patterns while “Leaving You” bounces along cheerfully, in contrast to the lyrics! Every proper blues band needs to show that it can handle a slow blues and here “Next To You” fits the bill perfectly while Derek’s closing “I’d Like To Thank You All” gives a shout out to the band’s long-term fans and supporters as Derek fires off salvoes of great harp underpinned by frantic piano.

The covers are well chosen to both represent the band’s influences and to offer listeners some tunes they will recognise whilst also avoiding some of the most frequently covered selections. Willie Dixon is represented by “Pretty Thing”, the rhythm section doing a good job with the Bo Diddley riff; “Keep On Loving Me Baby” is the choice from the Otis Rush songbook and Tim achieves a wonderfully light tone here on a fast-paced take; the churning rhythm of Magic Sam’s “Every Night And Every Day” is a great vehicle for some relaxed guitar and impressive harp work; every harp player owes a debt to Little Walter and Derek leads on harp and vocals on “Up The Line” which is the longest track on the album at just under five minutes, allowing Tim to include an excellent, fast-picking solo; Louis Myers’ instrumental “Top Of The Harp” is a feature for Derek.

This is a really enjoyable disc which could well be a contender for debut release of the year. It will certainly appeal to lovers of traditional blues and comes recommended from this reviewer.

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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Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaugn, IL

Prairie Crossroads Blues Society presents our IBC fundraiser for The Smokers Blues Band Sunday January 12 at Pipa’s Pub, 604 S. Country Fair Dr. in Champaign. They’re heading to Memphis later in January as Central Illinois representatives to compete in the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge. Prairie Crossroads Blues Society hosts two Blues Jams each month. Jams are 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 opened up to all the jammers in the house. Jams are held at Pipa’s Pub, 604 S. Country Fair Dr. in Champaign. Other bands hosting Jams in 2020 include, the Blues Deacons, Cobalt Blues Band and Jack Whittle Band. Bring your instrument and join in the fun. For more info visit:

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 Jan 11th – Brandon Santini, Sat Feb 8th – Mike Wheeler. Lyran Society, Rockford, IL, 7 to 10 PM No Cover  Fri Jan 3rd – Dave Weld and the Imperial Flames. Mary’s Place, Rockford, IL, 7 to 10 PM, $10 admission – Wed Jan 15th – Tas Cru

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.   Jan 13 – Kilborn Alley Blues Band, Jan 20 – Tas Cru & His Band Of Tortured Souls, Jan 27 – The Groove Daddies.

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