Issue 14-36 September 3, 2020

Cover photo © 2020 Bob Kieser

 In This Issue 

Bucky O’Hare has our feature interview with Robert Kimgrough Sr. We have 7 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Jesus On a Tortilla, RJ Starr – The Brooklyn Blues Band, Mark Tolstrup and Jill Burnham, JW-Jones, Savoy Brown, Justin Saladino Band and Bart Ryan.

 From The Editor’s Desk 


Hey Blues Fans,

Nearly 10,000 of you have already voted in the 2020 Blues Blast Music Awards so far. And now time is almost up!

Voting ends this Saturday September 5th at midnight CST.

Have you voted yet? Voting is easy and free. You may only vote once.

Voting totals are always close. In fact in many years the winner is determined by less than 10 votes so be sure to vote for your favorite artist and music today!

Join in the fun and vote now at:

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser


 BBMA Voting – Voting Ends Saturday September 5th 


Have you voted yet? Voting for the Blues Blast Music Awards if free and easy. (You may only vote once!) Vote for your favorite artists HERE!


 Featured Interview – Robert Kimbrough Sr. 

imageRobert Kimbrough Sr., the youngest son of the Blues legend Junior Kimbrough, has a Blues birthright written into his most formative childhood experiences:

“I grew up in the Blues field man, I grew up around it, you know. When Pop was playing it, I was there. You know I was a Gospel guy, always a Gospel guy, but coming up I had to go to church and play that Gospel. But, in the household, my dad played Blues. He played Gospel before Blues, but he turned it over and he start playing Blues. So I grew up around it and I always wanted to play it. Every time my dad would play he would have house parties and all this good stuff, I’d be right there with him. I always said I want to play Blues, I want to play with my father.”

Robert Kimbrough Sr. is an expressive and emotive Bluesman. The torch bearer for a style of Blues his father created called Cotton Patch Soul Blues, Robert plays guitar with a hypnotic rhythm and rips lead work out with a savage edge. He sings with plaintive R&B gusto and writes relatable songs about love, loss, and the hardships of life. An easy going man, Robert is quick to laugh and easy to relate to. Like so many people during the COVID crisis, (and especially so many musicians and artists), Robert is struggling to make ends meet. Talking in the evening on his drive home from working a day job, Robert took time to delve into his music and inspiration and his deep familial roots in the Blues.

“First of all, Cotton Patch Soul Blues style, is the style that my father played, brought up on, back in the day. You know I can’t just explain the full details to it all, I’m sure if he was livin’ he could. That style is a style that only Kimbroughs play. Cotton Patch Soul Blues that was just a totally different style than from all Blues. Hill Country Blues that’s a name that was brought on through by Dave Stevens, I think that’s his name, I may be wrong. He brought Hill Country in and gave it to them guys, you know what I’m saying? It’s just a different style of Blues. Hill Country is totally a different style of Blues than Cotton Patch Soul Blues, cause we play Soul Blues, we don’t play Country Blues. I mean we can play it, but we don’t play Country Blues, we play Soul Blues.”

Robert is referring to Colorado film maker and photographer David Stevens who in the late 90’s traveled and reported with writers Michael Dixon and Andrew Cody for the sadly long defunct Blues magazine Blues Access. These pilgrims met, wrote about and worshiped the Blues musicians of Northern Mississippi and Western Arkansas. What Stevens apparently referred to as Hill Country Blues is a hypnotic pummeling music often played without a bass with a hard hitting straight forward beat. This is the music of R.L Burnside, Jessie Mae Hemphill and T-Model Ford. It is also the style that R.L.’s grandson Cedric Burnside is carrying on and the North Mississippi Allstars have used as a springboard for their Blues-Rock.

“(R.L. Burnside’s) music is totally different from my father, our style of Blues. Yeah that’s a name that his family rides with, Hill Country Blues, that they style I guess. I don’t speak much on they style of what they do, more than that’s what they ride with. Yeah but, Garry (Burnside) he played Soul Blues with my father, he got some soul in him, Duwayne Burnside also. But they tight with them Hill Country Blues players, that what they do.”

Junior Kimbrough’s Cotton Patch Soul Blues is just as it’s name describes: Soul Blues. Kimbrough music has a bass, it has that low end throbbing, creating a visceral hypnotic groove. Cotton Patch Soul Blues is also highly syncopated. The clarion blasts of the Hill Country snare is shaded and more rhythmic in Cotton Patch making the music funky and dance-able. Often taking reference from Soul musicians like Otis Redding, Junior Kimbrough’s Cotton Patch Soul Blues pumps and has connection to the long form music of James Brown and Parliament. Robert’s father developed his music inventions…

mage“…from his brothers. Yeah his brothers would always play guitars and pick ‘em and put them in the attic and stuff. Once they put them in the attic, him and his sister would go up there get ‘em and just start playing. You know Pop, he carried it on and brought it on to the light. It took a while, you know he was a lot older when he did get to come out and start playing this music.”

The Kimbroughs and the Burnsides were kindred clans. There was no family rivalry between the two Blues camps, only kinship and community.

“Sometime, my father, he met R.L, and R.L.’s family and our family connected. And we all got along. Families begin to blend in. It all came together man, you know. They had they style and we had our style, yeah. We grew up and just kept doing the thing. Right now, I tell you what, it’s just blowin’ up, it’s good.”

Cotton Patch Soul Blues is subtle and requires a deep understanding of rhythm and group improvisation. It is hard music to get proficient in and difficult to master. Musicians like Jimbo Mathus and Alvin Youngblood Hart have tried. Buddy Guy’s seminal Northern Mississippi album Sweet Tea leans heavily on Cotton Patch Soul Blues and the compositions and arrangements of Junior Kimbrough. Robert and his brothers, guitarist/singer David who passed away in 2019 and Kinny who plays drums in Robert’s band, inherited the Cotton Patch Soul Blues. He says it’s a “family legacy brought about by my father and my uncle.” It was passed down to the Kimbrough boys by their father, their birthright. But, these young aspiring Bluesmen had to pay their dues.

“No, no Pop he don’t teach you how to play the guitar (laughs). You gonna pretty much learn on the floor you know. That’s why I learned to play, to get as good as I was, because I am an original bass guitar player. I play lead because I carried the sound on, you know I run my own band now. One of my brothers passed away on me in 2019, David Kimbrough Jr., so I carry it on. But, you know I had to learn a lot of my stuff on the stage, man (chuckles). Pop never, he didn’t teach, no, all he did man, in the house my father had a band room, him and Soul Blues Boys, they would come in there, rehearse or practice, do their thing then they would leave. Once they leave he would leave the instruments or everything in there. Once he leave, me, Dave and Kinny we run up in the band room. Yeah you know we go up in the band room, shit, man we play us some Blues, you know, yeah. We go up in that band room and break some strings, all that different kind of stuff. Pop, he come back, you know he be a little upset about us going in there and breaking the strings and all that different kind of stuff. But he was glad we were learning that, because he wanted us to play with him, to play for him once we got older. Sure enough, grew up, we got older, we started to play with him and go on tours with him, all that good stuff.”

Even though Robert had the Blues coursing through his veins and imprinted in his mind, he still heard the call of adolescent rebellion.

“I left Mississippi at a young age, once I had graduated from High School, yeah I left Mississippi. I went to Illinois where my sister was, my younger sister, she had passed and gone to, rest her soul. I went there man, when I left, I left my Pops behind and also my brothers too. You know I left the Blues behind too. The City you know I was running wild; young and buckwild. But, when I did finally come to my mind of sense I realized, man, that I really really screwed up. I could have been a lot farther down the road you know if I would have stayed there. And my father, I would have been there to kind of look out for him on different things. Cause my father didn’t really understand a lot of stuff that was written and stuff like that, you know what I mean. So it’ve been good to have been there for him and to, you know, walk with him through it. But I didn’t. You know he got screwed in the game, but it’s all good, it is what it is.”

Junior Kimbrough had an undeniable sound. There was no mistaking his guitar playing. Vibrato laden, Junior played with his fingers, no picks, in an orchestral style; thumbing bass notes and pulling warbly melody lines with his pointer and ring fingers. The slightly mumbled wails of Junior’s singing were another atmospheric layer in service of the groove.

imageRobert Kimbrough Sr.’s music builds off of his father’s. Like all great modern traditional Bluesmen, Robert creates within a tradition, the tradition in this case just happens to be his inherited family business. Robert has mastered his father’s finger picking style. But, he adds a modern depth of knowledge adding distortion, wah effects and a diversified pallet of riffs. Robert also sings with clarity and passionate abandon. He also tells stories over his grooves that have an almost Q-Tip laid back spoken/rap vibe. Writing most of his own material and often playing many of the instruments, Robert has made a statement about the future of Cotton Patch Soul Blues.

Robert’s four self released studio albums are superb masterpieces. Starting with 2016 Willey Woot (the nickname his father gave him) Kimbrough refined his father’s Cotton Patch style writing his own songs and covering the senior Kimbrough’s “You Better Run.” 2017’s two records What I’m Gon’ Do? Where I’m Gon’ Go from Here? and My Frog push the style farther into the Soul and update it with a bit more edge. 2018’s I Been Fixed fully realizes a modern understanding of Cotton Patch Soul Blues. Recorded in Austin, Texas at Janky Studios with the help of Scott Lindsey, I Been Fixed is a dark, brooding hypnotic surge of deep Blues. There is a new album on the horizon this Fall in which Robert is taking full control of his guitar playing and realizing his music. Robert’s goal is to put his own flavor into his father’s style.

“I do that, put a little bit more flavor to it. I get out there and I do things. Now, in my new CD about to drop, I’m playing everything. You know where my brother Kinny’s playing drums, I’m playing chords and lead guitar and I got a bass player playing the bass. I normally play the bass on all my CDs but this time I let my bass player play bass. Now if you listen to it, I’m playing all the lead. This one’s called Pain Won’t Stop. I’m hoping by the end of September it’ll be ready. I’m taking it to another level.”

The COVID crisis has significantly impacted Robert’s life and his art. Speaking about his writing process:

“Well, you know it comes to me man, a lot of my music comes to me in the weary hours of the night when I’m laying in my bed. That’s when it comes to me. When my music and my lyrics come to me, I immediately get up and go in my band room and record it. Just enough when I wake up to go ahead and finish it out. And then some of the times I can just be sitting up and I can just write my songs. It varies, but I stay writing. Now I don’t write as much as I used to. Because of this COVID thing I have to do other things to try to make ends meet man because of this COVID. I don’t get to spend as much time with my music as I want to. But it don’t phase me. I still get my guitar (chuckle), I plays my guitar, don’t get me wrong. I go in there and I still write, I do my thing, but not like I used to.”

Robert has a favorite guitar. It is a unique white stratocaster styled solid body with two golden humbuckers straddling a single coil. When asked about his “Kimbrough Guitar,” Robert lit up and the weariness of the day seemed to be shed for at least a moment.

“So my story with that guitar, let me tell how this come about. First of all this guy Brian Burton, I met this guy a long long time ago in Tutwiler Mississippi. I was on break and he was out there on the train tracks. And I was wondering what he was doing, I was like ‘what that man doing out there on the train tracks?’ You know so I call him over, he come over started talking, say: ‘what you doin’ out here?’ And he say ‘oh I’m on vacation and I used to be an engineer and all this, I dealt with the trains and all this different kind of stuff,’ and he say ‘I’m down here to go to the Blues festival,’ I say ‘oh so you like Blues? You know Junior Kimbrough?’ and he says ’yes I know Junior Kimbrough, I’m a huge fan of him.’ And I say ‘you are talking to Junior Kimbrough’s youngest son, Robert Kimbrough, yeah.’ Oh man he was tickled pink. He told me ‘I want to build a guitar for you to play.’ So this guitar I got is a Kimbrough Guitar. It is hand made by Brian Burton out of Eugene, Oregon and man let me tell you, it is a nice guitar. It is great. I play it everywhere I go, let me tell you.”

imageRobert continues to invoke his father and his brother every time he plugs that Kimbrough Guitar into an amplifier. But, he still adds his flavor.

“I play through the same kind of amp my father played through. That was a Fender Super Reverb. I play through that and my brother also played through that. I do have the gain up sometimes with a distortion box, you know an Ibanez Tube Screamer. So sometimes I do turn it up add a little flavor to it. Growing up you know you play your father’s music or whatever, but you always add a little flavor to it (haha) yeah.”

Junior Kimbrough does not only loom large on Robert as a musical North Star. Robert’s love and admiration is ever present for his father. It is clear that not a day goes by that Robert doesn’t miss him. Robert’s Blues are in honor of his dad but he also wanted to do more. Four years ago he started the Kimbrough Cotton Patch Soul Blues Festival.

“I started that festival, me and my wife started that festival, man, I wanted to do something to honor my father. So I started it and we went from there with it man. I got some more friends to come in from New York and some more sponsors from around the town and some that’s not from around the town that kind of chipped in. We trying to build it man and make the Kimbrough Cotton Patch Soul Blues Festival groove man in honor of my father and now my brother. This was the 4th annual year man and this COVID came. (It’s kicking everyone’s ass) sheew, oh man, you hear me, I’m talkin’ about kicking some tail.”

The 4th annual Kimbrough Cotton Patch Soul Blues Festival will be held virtually this year on September 26th and 27th. Live streaming from Robert’s night club The Hut in Holly Springs, Mississippi, which he only opens sporadically for events such as this, the festival will feature some of Mississippi’s finest Blues musicians, most of whom are named Kimbrough or Burnside. These men and women are keeping the Blues of Northern Mississippi alive.

“The Blues is here forever. You know I carry the legacy on. My Dad’s gone, my brother David’s gone, me and Kinny the last two left of my Dad and Mom, may baby sister she gone to. You know we carry the music on and try to keep it alive. My festival will be jumping May, what a second, September, I had to move it from May to September cause of the virus. September 26th to 27th of this year. And hopefully it will take place and it will be online.”

Robert Kimbrough Sr. is a modern day Bluesman who honors his past while expressing his artistic perspective and his life. A man who has suffered great loss – his father, brother, sister, so many of the old timers who created the music of Northern Mississippi. Through it all, Robert keeps alive his birthright, his legacy. The COVID crisis has hit his life and his community hard. Robert is again fighting to preserve something so dear, his music – his way of life. “We dying everyday, I just pray we can make it through.”

Check out Robert Kimbrough Sr. and support the music of Northern Mississippi:

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 – 1 of 7 

imageJesus On a Tortilla – What is Wrong With You?


15 songs, 58 minutes

Seeing the image of Jesus on a tortilla and/or praying to said image is a unique type of Americana (meaning both North and South America) mystical Christianity that requires a deep seated leap of faith. It is therefore apt that Italian Blues band Jesus On a Tortilla would name themselves thusly. The type of recklessly committed leap of faith required for a bunch of young people to play the stone cold unremittingly old school Blues this band of young people plays requires that same type of devotional single mindedness of the unleavened gluten free apostle. On their second album What’s Wrong With You?, Tortilla continues their old-fashioned analog sounding live-to-tape ways throwing themselves into a sea of dusty classic covers and a bunch of originals written in a time machine from 1956.

Jesus On a Tortilla is Lorenzo “Mumbles” Albai on vocals and harp, Kevin “Blind Lemon” Clementi and Andrea “Youngblood” Mandelli alternating guitar work, Matteo “Shuffle” Ferrario on drums and Massimiliano “Ximi” Chiara on upright bass. This band is so enamored of Blues mythology even their nicknames are devotional. Covers from Jimmy Rogers, Elmore James, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Ike Turner, J.B. Lenoir and more are read clean and in line with the originals reinforcing the band’s aesthetic. Highlights include the slow burn of Lou Donaldson’s “Whiskey Drinking Woman” featuring plaintive guitar work from Mandelli. Mandelli’s slide work on the Elmore James classic “Person to Person” never steps outside of the James cannon of licks while the hopping rhythm section keeps the band flowing.

What is most interesting on this record are the six originals. “Tell Me Babe” and “I’m A Really Good Lover” twist classic Blues riffs and lyrical motifs over superb modernity informed drumming, the former being a funk shuffle and the later being a stripped down bossa. Live performances of two more original compositions at the end of the disc offer a glimpse into the youthful fire and playful interplay of this band. “Street Diary” is a plodding 1-2 shuffle distinguished by Blind Lemon Clementi’s ragged slide work inter-playing with Mumbles’ forceful harp blowing. The closer “Tribute to Muddy Waters” is a direct lift of Slim Harpo’s “Hip Shake” with more of a hopped up John Lee Hooker boogie than Muddy’s devastatingly syncopated electrified country invention. Again this track shows off these guys’ chops and interplay.

Jesus On A Tortilla are a fun band. They are part of a legion of young people looking to the past for artistic guidance and inspiration. In the early ‘aughts these people were called hipsters. Instead of artisanal pickles, irreverent tattoos and ubiquitous meticulously groomed, but still seemingly unkempt, facial hair, these young people dress in fancy suits (they are Italian after all) and play music popular in the 40’s and 50’s. It is important for artists so locked in to an aesthetic to create for themselves within it. Jesus On A Tortilla is there. It will be interesting to hear what they do next.

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 7 

IMAGERJ Starr – The Brooklyn Blues Band – One Damn Yankee

self release

10 songs time – 27:40

A Brooklyn transplant now residing in Jackson Mississippi, RJ Starr formed The Brooklyn Blues Band in 2017 and tour extensively. RJ sings, plays guitar and wrote all of the songs largely with a country-ish slant. The approach is rather lightweight with not an over abundance of guitar soloing. RJ supplies mainly rhythm guitar and various players contribute keyboards, sax, harmonica and backing vocals to flesh out the sound.

The title song “One Damn Yankee” is the kind of country music that they dance the “Boot Scoot Boogie” to. RJ’s vocals are kinda of the “gee wiz” variety. I can’t help it, “Emily In The Morning” brings to mind The Partridge Family” if they had a boogie woogie piano player. Could “Hole In The Bucket” be the B-side? The Partridge Family jamming with The Dillards? One of the few RJ guitar solos.

The groove is tougher and grittier on “Sweet Potato Man”. Oh no, could this be double entendre? Keith Boutwell’s harmonica and the piano of James Bell liven up “Tight Pink Sweater”. “Take Me Home Tonight” benefits from the inclusion of some bright electric piano. Another infrequent guitar solo on the touristy blues of “2-Lane Blues”. I suppose “Bobby Gonna Sing The Blues” is a reference to saxophonist Bobby Connor being featured on the song.

With a length of just under twenty-eight minutes the band could of offered a bit more time to show more of what they have to offer. Most of the music here has an obvious country influence to it. As well intentioned as this effort is, it comes off as lightweight in its’ delivery. For me the keyboard playing from James Bell is a highlight of this recording. Well heck, it’s a mostly upbeat affair that folks might find a soothing relief from the usual guitar heavy blues-rock proliferating the scene today.

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



 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 7 

IMAGEMark Tolstrup and Jill Burnham – Mark & Jill Sing the Blues


CD: 10 Songs, 43 Minutes

Styles: Acoustic Blues, Folk, Mellow Blues

“Too blues for country, too country for the blues.” That’s the motto of the Nouveaux Honkies, and the title of their signature song. However, it also applies to the style of New York’s Mark Tolstrup and Jill Burnham, performing live from Saratoga Springs’ Caffè Lena on their newest album, Mark & Jill Sing the Blues. This warm, unpretentious release features ten songs tailor-made for lovers of folk and mellow blues. As Mark himself says, “There’s an honesty to it. The songs have stories to them. I don’t like music that’s too smooth or contrived.” As a New York Blues Hall of Fame inductee, he knows what he and his audience are after. Right before COVID-19 struck the world, on January 18, 2020, Mark and Jill performed this live concert, not knowing it would be one of their last. They relaxed and energized an appreciative crowd, like hot java is supposed to do. With Mark providing robust male vocals and Jill in heartfelt harmony, they give one’s spirits a boost. Whether country, blues, or in between, that’s what music is meant for.

Sarah Craig, the executive director of Caffè Lena, offers high praise for our leading man: “Sometimes you know a performer is thinking about something other than the song. With Mark Tolstrup, that is never the case. He becomes completely at one with his instrument, with the journey of the song.” This wholehearted dedication to their art has led Mark and Jill to become the winners of the Capital Region Blues Network 2019 competition, and to compete in the International Blues Challenge on January 28, 2020. Such accolades are richly deserved.

Although this is a duo album, guest musician Frank Orsini accompanies Mark and Jill on vocal harmony, fiddle and mandolin.

“Come Here, Baby,” a Tolstrup original, begins the live concert and gets the audience in a pure-blues mood. Mark’s guitar, as crisp as the winter day on which it was performed, lulls one into a trance from the opening notes of the intro. Frank Orsini’s fiddle is like hot butter on pancakes: the perfect finishing touch. Next comes Ry Cooder’s “I Got Mine,” an old-fashioned ditty about gambling – and getting away with the winnings after you’ve clearly lost. “Thirty dollar bet was laying on the table. My buddy’s point was nine. Then the police came, and I grabbed all of them, and I got mine. I got mine…Out the back door I went flying!” A sizzling cover of Elmore James’ “Held My Baby” follows a bit farther down the line, as does one of the most heartbreaking songs yours truly has ever heard: “How Birds Fly,” a meditation on the fallout of alcoholism and drug abuse. The next three gospel songs remind us to love our neighbor and follow the Golden Rule “or you might not get it at all.” Such a prescription is sorely needed.

Mark & Jill Sing the Blues will pep you up and soothe your soul!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 40 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 – 4 of 7 

imageJW-Jones – Sonic Departures

Solid Blues Records

9 tracks – 34 minutes

Canadian guitarist JW-Jones had his year get off to a great start. At the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in January, Jones was a member of the Horojo Trio, sponsored by the Ottawa Blues Society, named the top act in the Band category, and Jones was named the recipient of the Gibson Guitar award as the top guitar player. The latter recognition confirmed what many reviewers have been writing about his talents since the beginning of Jones’ career, 20 years and ten albums ago.

His latest recording started with tracks that were recorded last year. After learning how to use some new recording programs, Jones worked on the vocals and guitar tracks while sequestered at home in the wake of the virus shutdown. He also worked virtually with the engineer, Eric Eggleston, to put the finishing touches on project. His touring band, Will Laurin on drums and Jacob Clarke on upright & electric bass, keep the rhythmic fires stoked, and former band member Jesse Whiteley returned to help out on keyboards.

What sets this album apart is the presence of a 13 horn players, giving many of the tracks a swinging big band sound. The opening original, “Blue Jean Jacket,” is a lively romp that finds the guitarist reminiscing about long-gone days of innocence, the memories wrapped up in a favorite piece of clothing. Jones unleashes a fiery solo to bring the track to a close. Whiteley is featured on organ on another original, “Same Mistakes,” as Jones makes good use of his lighter toned voice on the song’s catchy chorus. The rhythm section sets a driving pace on “Ain’t Gonna Beg,” with blasts from the horns amplifying the energy level until Jones steps in on guitar, reminding everyone who is the boss with a blistering solo, veering into a far more intense emotional space.

The remaining six tracks are covers, starting with a hip rendition of “Drowning On Dry Land.” The horns blow hardy accents at the end of each vocal line Jones lays down, engaging in some spirited interplay behind his guitar solo, giving the cut a solid New Orleans R&B feel. Jones and his wife, Brit Wynne-Jones, join together for the harmonizing vocals on a fast-paced version of the Everly Brothers classic, “Bye Bye Love,” followed by a jaunty rendition of the Clarence Carter hit, “Snatchin’ It Back.”

Some listeners may wonder why Jones decided to include the oft-covered “The Things That I Used To Do.” Those concerns will quickly dissipate once you hear his extended guitar break, steadily building the tension while refraining from slipping into shredding mode. “It’s Obdacious” is another swinging track, with a brief solo interlude courtesy of Jeff Pighin on tenor sax. Jones employs some B.B. King-style licks on the final track, “When It All Comes Down,” the horns consistently making their presence felt. Jones takes over at the end, treating listeners to one last taut guitar solo.

While the disc is a bit short, Jones makes the most of the playing time, packing plenty of punch into each track. The prohibitive costs of touring with a big band, if touring was even a possibility, means there is little chance of hearing Jones fronting the band live on stage, horns and all. Too bad, as it sounds like it would be a damn good time!

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer 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!



 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 7 

imageSavoy Brown – Ain’t Done Yet

Quarto Valley Records

10 Tracks/47:05

Fifty-five years and forty albums later, Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown are still rocking with a vengeance, which is abundantly apparent on the opening track of their latest effort. “All Gone Wrong” features the leader’s sturdy vocals over a ferocious rhythm foundation established by long-time members of the trio, Pat DeSalvo on bass and Garnet Grimm on drums. Simmonds adds layers of guitar parts to flesh out the arrangement on a song that captures the prevailing mood of the times we live in.

The next track on the all-original program, “Devil’s Highway,” slows the pace but not the level of intensity as the six minute track gives Simmonds plenty of room to showcase the lyrical side of his guitar artistry. The title cut is the leader’s guitar-driven celebration of his on-going musical career. “Jaguar Car” is a hardcore boogie number with Simmonds on slide guitar, filling out the sound with some well-placed harmonica accents.

Switching to a steel dobro guitar, Simmonds establishes more of a back-porch feel on “Rocking In Louisiana,” then the band uses a grinding soundscape to pay homage to a “Soho Girl, “ a woman who “…likes Muddy Waters, makes a mean Mexican meal…..drives a ’67 Mustang, sleeps with a gun.” Simmonds pulls out the slide guitar again to give “’River On The Rise” more of an acoustic feel, complete with a calmer rhythmic flow. The guitarist gets a unique tone on “’Borrowed Time,” utilizing a vintage Multivox Full Rotor device that simulates the sound of a Leslie speaker, typically used with Hammond B-3 organs. The darker toned guitar licks aptly convey the weariness in Simmonds’ musings about edging ever closer to a personal judgment day.

Simmonds explores the lyrical side of his playing on “Feel Like A Gypsy,” with the various guitar parts merging to form a soothing, intricate interplay that makes this song one of the disc’s highlights. The closing track, the instrumental “Crying Guitar,” offers more of the same. Simmonds takes his time, building his solo through a fiery interlude, then finishing with a more introspective approach that sends out flurries of taut, mournful notes that also offer a ray of hope.

This album ranks as one of the best of Savoy Brown’s more recent output, and serves as a vivid reminder that Kim Simmonds belongs in the top tier of blues-rock guitar players. Still relevant fifty-five years further down the road, this release is sure to please long-time Savoy Brown fans and anyone who favors a robust set of original music powered by a steady stream of six string magic!

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer 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 – 6 of 7 

imageJustin Saladino Band – JSB LIVE


CD: 11 Songs, 61 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Live Album

One of the pleasures I’ve sorely missed this year is live music. It has a different atmosphere than a studio album, a more daredevil, freewheeling vibe. Artists can spend hundreds of hours editing and perfecting studio releases. While LIVE, they only have one chance to get it right. Therefore, Montreal’s Justin Saladino Band holds nothing back in showcasing their talents: smooth, heartfelt vocals from its leading man, dynamite instrumentation, on-point lyrics, and a passionate stage presence one can hear if not see in person. As determined from the photo on the inside of their CD jacket, the musicians skew toward the younger/Millennial side of the blues-rock scene. Nevertheless, all ages will enjoy the eleven tunes presented here (ten originals and one cover). There’s something for everyone: catchy mid-tempo rockers such as the first three numbers, mellow ballads like “All You Ever Need” and “Peace With You,” even a Hendrix-style shredder, “Purple Girl.” Saladino and his Quebecois compatriots entertain for over an hour in top form.

JSB LIVE was recorded over two nights in front of an audience of loyal fans at Quebec’s largest recording facility, Piccolo Studios. “Six musicians, two shows and eleven songs….I’m proud of that,” says Justin fondly. With the addition of an electric take on Tom Petty’s “You Don’t Know How It Feels” (the one cover), JSB Live delivers a diverse setlist of the band’s history to date.

In 2018, the 21st annual Maple Blues Awards nominated the group for New Artist of the Year in Canada. The following year, Blues and Roots Radio acknowledged JSB’s country-crossover tune, “Third Week Of June,” as 2018 Song of the Year under the group category. The band was also selected to represent Quebec and compete with over 200 other acts from around the world at the 2019 International Blues Challenge in Memphis Tennessee, hosted by The Blues Foundation.

Performing alongside Justin Saladino (vocals and guitars) are Antoine Loiselle on guitars; David Osei-Afrifa on keys; Denis Paquin on drums and vocals; Gabriel Forget on bass and vocals, and Lucie Martel on vocals and percussion.

Surprisingly, the album’s centerpiece is a contemplative one, “Put the Hammer Down,” about one’s propensity to judge one’s fellow man: “Everybody suffers; everybody cries. Not all of us wonder if we’re the reason why. I’ve met so many other people in my life…I’ve put the hammer down on others, and that ain’t right.” With melodic instrumentation backing Saladino up, such a confessional should be a required theme song for social media. Why are we collectively quick to sum other people and their lives up with hurtful labels, catchphrases and memes? Why can’t we give each other the benefit of the doubt instead of the business end of our proverbial hammer? The solo in the middle pounds this point home subtly, beautifully, without getting in your face.

On the other end of the musical and topical spectrum is “Irish Bordello, a hard-driving rocker perfect for drinking instead of thinking. Methinks the crowd especially loved this one. It gets one’s blood pumping and heart thumping. It should also top the Billboard blues-rock charts.

In the days before COVID, LIVE music was grand. Give it up for the Justin Saladino Band!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 40 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 – 7 of 7 

imageBart Ryan – Starlight and Tall Tales

Blackbird Record Label

10 songs – 46 minutes

A gritty-voiced session guitar player who was born in Los Angeles and is based in Nashville, Bart Ryan delivers an all-original set of soulful, blues-infused roots on this album, wrapping his inner turmoil in a collection of intimate, bittersweet tunes that bare his struggles and offer up a little hope, too.

Doubling on guitar and lap steel and delivering rich tone on both, Ryan grew up listening to Albert Collins, Stevie Ray Vaughan and David Gilmour. While still in his teens, he was playing in late-night bars with Coco Montoya and several others. He was a fixture on the blues scene in Atlanta for five years before returning home to be closer to family.

This is the sixth CD in Bart’s catalog in a career that’s included serving as the musical producer for several major movies, including The Descendants, the Academy Award-winning George Clooney flick. This one was recorded at Starlight Studios and features tunes that deal with what he describes in the liner notes as “three strange years filled with late nights, struggle, mold poisoning, broken affairs, Sexton Irish Whiskey and political insanity.”

He’s backed by several of the top studio musicians in L.A. and Tennessee, including Mark Kovaly (keys), Jeff Byrd and Steve Smartt (horns), Ted Russell Kamp and Matt Higgins (bass) and Jim Evans (drums) with Aubrey Richmond contributing violin and joining Michael Mishaw and Amber Gartner on backing vocals.

Ryan sets the mood with “Wanna Be,” an unhurried, soul-drenched message to his lady that he doesn’t want to be “an afterthought for you/Or something you need to do” – just the only thing she thinks about through the day. Like the song that follows, “I’d Be a Fool,” it deals with a complicated relationship and draws influences from the works of Stevie Wonder and James Brown. A funky bass line kicks up the energy level for the latter, which builds intensity throughout, is delivered after the end of the affair and has Bart feeling like “I should just drink poison” rather than take her back again – something he does anyway.

The ballad, “Half Way,” opens quietly with a dreamy run on six-string before launching into lyrics that continues the theme forward, this time describing a lady who’s more trouble than she’s worth and who seemingly smiles but is really baring her teeth before she bites.

The action heats up for the hard-driving, stop-time rocker, “Evil,” a highly charged statement against the Trump administration, then softens its attack for “Walk Away,” another emotion-packed view of a difficult romance. The woman’s allure is so deep in this one that Ryan ignores the advice of friends to leave.

The bluesy ballad, “Bring Out Your Joy,” will please any guitar lover as it urges a friend to uplift the singer’s mood by sharing a little happiness and love and promises not to take too much. The funk kicks in for “The Healer,” an uptempo rocker that offers up a little hope in the form of a lady who’s in possession of magic potions and a magic wand, while the ballad “Nobody” sings praise for friends who’ve remained steadfastly at the singer’s side even when he was at the depths of despair. The rocker “Tonight Tonight” advises to enjoy yourself while you can before the acoustic blues, “Desire,” brings the set to a close with the message that no matter how bad life’s treated you, “the worst thing in life is to have no dream at all.”

Available through iTunes, Amazon and Google Play, Starlight and Tall Tales mirrors modern times filled with uncertainty and hope, and may not be right for you if you’re struggling right now. But Bart Ryan shows here that he’s an exceptionally gifted songwriter and musician who’s willing to bare all for his craft. This is an excellent work that deserves your ear despite the unsettling themes of the material.

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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