Issue 14-46 November 13, 2020

Cover photo © 2020 Joseph A. Rosen

 In This Issue 

Mark Thompson has our feature interview with Magic Dick. We have 6 Blues reviews for you this week including new releases from Kim Wilson, AJ Crawdaddy, Dave Riley & Bob Corritore “From The Vault”, Fabrizio Poggi, Lloyd Jones and Kaz Hawkins. We have 2 Videos of the Week featuring Magic Dick & Shun Ng.



 Featured Interview – Magic Dick 

imageIn 1970, the self-titled debut album by the J. Geils Band was released, and immediately grabbed the attention of listeners partial to blues and rock music. One listen let you know the band had a deep appreciation for classic blues music. Their sound was centered on the wild vocal style and stage presence of lead singer Peter Wolf, the spot-on guitar work by J. Geils, topped off by the wailing harp from Magic Dick, born Richard Salwitz in 1945 in Connecticut.

Dick started taking music lessons in third grade. His instrument of choice was one of the brass instruments.

“I think what attracted me to the trumpet was probably hearing Louis Armstrong. That really did it for me. I took lessons as part of my school’s program, and was in the band. But I wasn’t deep into the band stuff because I like to be by myself, so the school band didn’t really interest me that much. But it did give an introduction to playing with a group plus learning to read some charts for second or third trumpet parts.

“All of that stuff has influenced me to this day. It has been the basis for the approach I take to learning, and my love of the music. I have had a love affair with the trumpet going back to that time. That led me to playing the saxophone a bit, although I never considered myself a good sax player. Or a good trumpet player for that matter! But that was the foundation for things like breath control and other aspects of playing that are super important to understanding me, the way I play, why I sound the way I do on harmonica.

“The first sax I owned was an alto, a Selmer Mark VI, which is a gorgeous instrument. That one I sold a few years ago, Since then, I picked up a Selmer Super 20 tenor sax with balanced action. Originally I was more attracted to the alto sax, primarily because of Charlie Parker, who was a huge influence. His sound and tone really got to me. His sound came from playing with a really hard reed. Somebody like Earl Bostic, who had a number of hits, used a softer reed to get his sound. Parker had a harder, stout tone on alto.

“There are a lot of tenor players that I like, with Dexter Gordon being one of my favorites of all time. Other favorites on alto are Art Pepper, who was a master at ballads, and Paul Desmond, who played in Dave Brubeck’s band. I admire their life-long commitment to learning to play their instrument to the nth degree. I find that really admirable. I work on playing several different instruments, which may work to my detriment. There are always calculations of economy to be made about how best to use the available practice time

“I apply what I have learned on saxophone directly to my playing on the chromatic harmonica, which has been my focus for the last few years. That doesn’t mean that I have given up on the diatonic harp, what people call the “blues” harmonica. On the chromatic, I don’t stick to just Chicago-style chromatic playing, like Little Walter doing “Blue Lights”. I am working on playing with a broader expression across a variety of musical sources. I listen to people like Jerry Murad, the lead player from the Harmonicats, Toots Thielemans, and Stevie Wonder. There aren’t a lot of top chromatic players around.”

Another jazz artist that Magic Dick was attracted to was Ornette Coleman, especially his small group recordings for Atlantic Records, where Coleman was doing original material that suspended the conventional approach.

“Coleman a number of things, like “C & D” from his Ornette! album, that were blues-like. Another thing that influenced at the time was his use of two drummers on some of the sessions, guys like Ed Blackwell and Billy Higgins, who were really great players. The approach I am taking now is to treat the chromatic harp as a jazz horn, and I don’t focus on any one type of music.

“Playing the chromatic as much as I do these days, my primary focuses are on bebop jazz and ballads. When I say bebop, I am referring to the music that Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie were doing back in 1945 when I was born. That music appeals to me more than the hard bop that came later. And I love the way Charlie Parker played ballads. That doesn’t mean I won’t play rock or blues any more, but that is where I am at currently.”

Six years ago, Dick started collaborating with guitarist Shun Ng, forming an acoustic duo. Ng was born in Chicago, raised in Singapore, and later settled in Boston to attend the Berklee College of Music on a scholarship. They met through Ng’s manager, who was Magic Dick’s old friend.

“We did some cool stuff, like a cover of the James Brown classic, “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag,” as a duo. And we regularly covered “So What,” from the classic Kind of Blue album by Miles Davis. Shun is back in Singapore now, got married, and with Covid issues, I don’t think he and I will be doing stuff any more. He is younger, and wants to focus on composing rather than going out on the road and performing. One thing I know is that his compositions will be great.

“I am into minimalism. I tend to prefer small bands, or even solo playing. There is nothing like hearing a great horn player doing a ballad unaccompanied, or with minimal backing. An example of that is the trio recordings the tenor great Sonny Rollins was pioneering in the late 1950s with just bass and drums, no chordal instrument at all. I ran across an interview where Rollins stated at that time that he didn’t want chordal accompaniment because he found that it got in the way of his ideas on tenor. The stuff he did in Europe at that time is stunning.

image“So minimalism can be fewer instruments, but it can also be applied to the number of notes that you are playing. I am not into musicians who can play 900 notes in three seconds. That just doesn’t move me, no matter how well it is done. I’d rather hear slow playing, or medium grooves without the density of notes. J. Geils and I used to refer to that as “note auctions”. “

The trumpet became Dick’s constant companion as time went on, until a serendipitous moment occurred.

“I was doing a summer school session at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, studying to be a physicist or an engineer. I really liked electronics and mechanical engineering. I wasn’t real big on chemistry, but physical chemistry was another matter all together! My interests have always been broad, and yet they are all related.

“When I got back from that session, my girlfriend at the time had an older brother who was into blues. He was spending a lot of time listening to Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. There was a ten inch record on Folkways Records, from the Library of Congress, of field recordings that got me interested in the harp. In a very short period of time, I had shifted my focus to Chicago blues and amplified harmonica, like the classic Muddy Waters and Little Walter. My interest went from the Piedmont style that Terry played to the darker side!

“I started playing the harp in earnest in 1967, and within a year, I had met up with J. Geils and Danny Klein, who became our bass player. We formed a jug band trio with me and Danny on vocals, Geils was on acoustic guitar, and Danny was playing a homemade washtub bass. I was also playing an instrument I kind of invented called a hydro-kazoo, which was a kazoo stuck into a beer can full of water. When you blew on the end of the kazoo, you’d get a bubbling sound when the air hit the water.

J. also played a manda-banj, which was a mandolin-sized banjo. It was a very intense interest.”

Within a short period of time, the trio went electric and moved to Boston, where they hooked up with singer Peter Wolf, and drummer Stephen Bladd. About a year later, Seth Justman joined on keyboards. In 1970, Atlantic Records released the self-titled album that introduced the J. Geils Band to the world.

“For that album, we were not recreating anything. What was always most important was to be fresh, put a new twist to it. Peter certainly had his own sound and charm, if you will. The more you know about this music, the more you know where Peter got his shit from. And the same goes for me, too. When it all came together, as a new band, there wasn’t anything like it. Some people thought we were the American version of the Rolling Stones. I could sort of understand that comparison, but I didn’t really feel it.”

The group became the house band at the Boston Tea Party, a famous club that originally been a synagogue. The room had high ceilings with a reflective ball that was the centerpiece for psychedelic light shows. They would open for headliners like B.B. and Freddie King.

“One night a promo guy for Atlantic, Mario Medious, heard us play and got real keen on us. When he got back to New York City, he told Jerry Wexler that Atlantic needed to sign us. But Wexler was not really our champion. The co-founder of Atlantic, Ahmet Ertegun, loved us. Ahmet and I shared a love of classic jazz going to Louis Armstrong. Ahmet knew his shit!

“A few albums into our career, we did a version of the song, “I’m Not Rough,” which was an Armstrong recording. I brought it to the band, pointing out that I thought we could do something with it, take it from an acoustic, country thing to an ending that had more of a city sound. J. played slide guitar on it, and he did a great job of emulating the slide trombone. I had transcribed Armstrong’s solo note by note to play on the diatonic harp. I think we did that quite successfully.

“So when we recorded in New York City, Ahmet would come into the studio now and then. He would also come to a lot of our NYC gigs. It was always a real thrill for me to look over and see him in the wings, standing 15 feet away from me on my side of the stage watching us. It was a special relationship.

“And Mario was special as well. He grew up in Memphis, near Beale Street. As a kid, he would hang out down there, getting to hear blues harp players like Sonny Boy Williamson all the time.

So, it was a good relationship for awhile. But in those days, with Atlantic, you had to pay to make records. It was a joke.”

The song that put Magic Dick in the spotlight was an instrumental he composed, “Whammer Jammer.” It first appeared on the band’s second studio album,The Morning After. When Atlantic released Live: Full House, a live album that captured the J. Geils Band in all of their glory, Magic Dick’s two and a half minute showcase captured the attention of fans around the world.

“There are a number of references mixed in there on that tune. Part of the opening came directly from Sonny Boy Williamson II and the Yardbirds doing “Bye Bye Bird.” I did it a little quicker, especially live. Then each chorus was taken from things that I had learned from the lexicon of the Chicago style of playing. The song is free-flowing composition rather than a burst of improvisation. “Whammer Jammer” has held up over the years because there is an inevitability to the flow, the unfolding of one chorus to the next, building to the climax.

image“A number of people I have been talking to lately have been picking up on “Stoop Down #39,” which is a blowout harp instrumental from our Nightmares…..And Other Tales from The Vinyl Jungle album. That one is more spectacular, with more fireworks than “Whammer Jammer.”

Along with J. Geils, Magic Dick participated in a project featuring Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, released as Buddy Guy And Junior Wells Play The Blues. Eric Clapton and Dr. John also were involved.

“Michael Cuscuna was the producer at the time we were requested to play on a tune or two. We were asked, but I don’t remember who asked, or how it all came about. Buddy and Junior had already recorded their stuff, so they weren’t in the studio when J. and I were there to do our thing. It has never been one of my favorite records. There you have it, as a matter of historical record.”

In those days, the quality control for harmonicas was pretty bad. The tolerances went to hell, so they were almost unplayable. Eventually Dick started playing Hohner Golden Melody harps, which utilize a plastic comb and a tuning like that of a saxophone.

The J. Geils Band ran out of steam in 1984. leaving Dick in a bad way.

“It was a depressing period. It was about eight years worth of not playing. The whole ending of the band was a major change. But I have a deep and strong interest for photojournalism. I am a nut for cameras. So I directed a lot of energy toward that while pulling away from music for awhile.

“Then I got back into it around 1989. I wanted to play again, so I started working on getting myself back into playing shape. Once that happened, the next step was thinking about getting a band together. I approached J. Geils to see if he was interested. He hadn’t been playing much either. He was directing his attention to his Ferrari restoration business. J. had been deep into Italian sports cars for quite some time.

“He was interested in the band idea, which got him to start playing again in earnest. We both saw the band as an opportunity to focus on what our first love was – classic jazz and blues. The stuff we did with the J. Geils Band was more rock with blues and jazz injections. With our Bluestime band, we were aiming for a more authentic sound.”

The Bluestime band cut two albums for Rounder Records, Bluestime in 1994, and Little Car Blues in 1996. Both feature J. Geils getting a Charlie Christian influenced guitar sound while Dick started stepping outside his comfort zone.

“On the first one, it was my introduction as a singer. No doubt that I was relatively inexperienced, having only been singing for about two years. About a year before doing Bluestime, I started seeing a vocal coach. That sent me on a course of being serious about singing. I think my vocals are much better on the second album. Overall, our playing is real good on both, but I personally like Little Car Blues more. I think the sound and instrumental intensity is better. My vocals on the first were just too green.

“You need to work to improve your vocals. My vocal coach put me on a path that has totally influenced how I play harp. She taught me a breathing technique that opera singers and big-name pop stars use. There is a technically correct way to sing. It has everything to do with how you breathe and how you control the air. I took lessons from the late Jeannie Deva in Boston. She later moved out to Los Angeles. She had studied with Dante Pavone, who was the voice teacher in Boston. A lot of rock guys studied with him, including me for a very brief period.”

“Dante used to say that he could teach a fire hydrant to sing! Good coaches know the exercises that will help you develop the fundamental mechanics that you need to sing properly. Those fundamentals give you confidence. You have to know that you can do it without negative thoughts getting in your way. I was pretty shackled in the beginning. Getting past that really opens things up as what you can do.”

Still excited by the crossover of techniques from singing to playing harp, the key thing for Magic Dick is the ability to sing what he intends to play with rhythmic precision. His goal is to be able to achieve a free expression, an instantaneous connection between the mental conception of a sound or idea, and what comes out of your mouth.

“It is a fascinating process, taking it down to a microscopic level, like going from a blow note to a draw note. It might be an adjacent hole on the harmonica, so you are moving just a small amount to a different spot. As a professional player, you have to learn to play in time, with precision and expression. I like to practice solo, playing ballads to develop my concentration, like when you are trying to thread a needle. For a moment, you have to focus on a very small spot with great intention.

“I am learning to play more like a jazz improviser. Here are the changes, now play it. I didn’t take this approach as much when the band was active. Then I was part of a team, with certain roles to fill. These days, spending a lot of time at home due to Covid, a lot of musicians are doing what I am doing. The down time has provided the space for sustained work. So I am happy as a pig in shit!”

There are two different approaches to playing the harmonica – lip pursing or puckering, and tongue blocking. Each approach has advantages.

“You expand your sonic palette on the harp if you can utilize both, which I do. I can switch mid-stream or mid-phrase from one to the other. Each technique produces a different tone, sound, a different attack. You should be good at both. But I recommend that newer players focus on one approach until they get pretty good at it. Otherwise you can confuse the muscular actions of your mouth.

“The harmonica is a unique instrument. Everyone has their own unique sound. My natural instinct is to get out the microscope! I examine shit in amazing detail, from philosophical, physical, and sonic perspectives. But I don’t forget that what matters is how do you sound, what is coming out of the harp.

image“The quality of your perception, of everything that goes into producing those notes is what separates the really good players from everyone else. I pay attention to the attack, how you launch the sound. The quality of the thought that initiates the action of playing makes a huge difference, controls the result. I think about this stuff every day. Some of it comes from being a trumpet player, because learning on it is so much trial and error, adjustments you make based on the sound you are getting.

“On one hand, you can memorize stuff and develop what you think is a level of facility on the instrument. But that is not real facility, not like Art Pepper’s alto playing, for example. You have to have the mental understanding of the action you need to take, then practice that action. I get great joy when that happens. That is why I discriminate in terms of who I spend my time listening to as I study the masters so intently.

Working with Pierre Beauregard in 1993, Dick patented a new concept in harmonica design that became known as “Magic Harps”.

“Our design provides alternate tunings for the diatonic harmonica. Conventional ten hole diatonic harps have a fixed layout, uses the same relationship of tones, unless it is a special tuning. They are also key specific. The Magic Harps were designed to allow you to play certain kinds of music with much greater facility than you could on a conventional diatonic, like the Little Walter Chicago style.

“They look and feel the same. The tunings readily enhance your ability to play melodies and chords that are appropriate for a wide range of musical genres. We came up with more than 40 different models under the one patent.

“All of the models share one common characteristic that is different than the diatonic. On the Magic Harp, you can bend all of the draw notes. On a diatonic, there is a crossover point at the seven hole where the logic between draw and blow changes. Our design is more symmetrical, added chord extensions, and made it more blues sounding. So we altered the color of the chords and the note relationship while retaining the characteristics of the harmonica sound.”

With the intention of playing more chromatic harp in a minimalist format, Dick continues to practice and work on improving his playing.

“I would like to do another duo, or trio, when our situation improves. It took some time to get used to performing in a duo with Shun, because you are really exposed every minute. But I respond to the pressure that puts on me. Also, each member has to play as they are a drummer, which further refines your attention, your understanding of grooves, and the importance of timing. Fewer instruments means that you can hear what is going on. I was often amazed playing with Shun that it sounded like so much more than the two of us.”

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 Videos of the Week – Magic Dick & Shun Ng 

Our first featured video is Magic Dick & Shun Ng playing an amazing acoustic version of the J. Geils band classic “Wammer Jammer” live. (Click image to watch!)

The second video is Magic Dick & Shun Ng playing their version of James Brown’s “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag” with just harmonica & fingerstyle guitar. (Click image to watch!)

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6 

imageKim Wilson – Take Me Back! The Bigtone Sessions

16 songs – 50 minutes

M.C. Records MC-0087

Harmonica giant Kim Wilson earned two Grammy nominations for M.C. Records in the early 2000s with the CDs Smokin’ Joint and Lookin’ for Trouble, but returns to the fold after a 17-year absence for this disc, which turns back the clock in more ways than one – because it was recorded in mono and live to analog tape just like it was done in the old days.

A 16-cut mix of clever originals and familiar covers, Take Me Back! was captured by Big Jon Atkinson, a modern-day master of old-school recording techniques, at his throwback BigTone Studios, using no more than four tracks on any song and laying down everything without overdubs just like they did it at Chess, Vee-Jay and Cobra in the ‘50s. The resulting sound is warm, rich and deep – items that are occasionally missing in digital studios today.

It’s a welcome change-of-pace for Wilson, the founding father of the legendary Fabulous Thunderbirds, who still plays up to 300 nights a year – COVID-19 permitting – while fronting them and splitting his time with his own band, Kim Wilson’s Allstars, and serving as a first-call musician for Buddy Guy, Paul Simon, Eric Clapton, Peter Frampton and others.

Like his regular bands, this album is chockful of talent. The lineup includes Atkinson, Billy Flynn, Kid Andersen, Rusty Zinn and Danny Michel on guitars, Bob Welsh on keys, Marty Dotson, Ronnie Smith, June Core, Al West and Malachi Johnson on drums and Kedar Roy, Troy Sandow and Greg Roberts on bass with Johnny Viau sitting in on horns. And longtime bandmate Barrelhouse Chuck’s also present on piano for two of his final recordings. The album’s dedicated to “my rogue uncle, the legend, Jimmy Rogers.”

Wilson opens with an easy/greasy cover of Jimmy Nolen’s familiar “You’ve Been Goofing” before exploding on the reeds for the original, rapid-fire instrumental, “Wingin’ It,” which alternately soars and glides aided by Big Jon on six-string. And Kim’s “Fine Little Woman” comes across with a classic feel, a perfect fit for versions of Larry Williams’ “Slow Down,” Howlin’ Wolf’s “No Place to Go” and Percy Mayfield’s “Strange Things Happenin’.”

The original West Coast blues, “Play Me,” features Flynn and Atkinson on guitars before Wilson does justice to the Windy City warhorse “If It Ain’t Me,” – one of four Rogers tunes in the set. The slow-paced instrumental, “Strollin’,” gives Kim plenty of space to work out on the reeds before two more Rogers classics: the familiar “The Last Time” and “Money, Marbles & Chalk.”

Little Walter’s “Take Me Back” gets a comfortable lump-de-lump arraignment before Wilson switches from diatonic to chromatic for another sensational instrumental original, “Rumblin’,” and the medium-paced shuffle, “I’m Sorry,” which features perfect, single-note guitar runs. Rogers’ “Goin’ Away Baby” sets up the instrumental “Out of the Fryin’ Pan” to bring the action to a close.

Available from most major retailers, Take Me Back! is as comfortable as a well-worn pair of expensive loafers. Try it on. If you’re old-school like me, it’s a great fit!

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.


 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 6 

imageAJ Crawdaddy – Steppin’ Out!

Cave Records

11 Tracks – 50 minutes

With his third solo album, guitarist Angelo Rossi, aka AJ Crawdaddy, continues his exploration of the blues music genre. He got a three year taste of the spotlight in the early 1980s when he joined the hit-making pop group Pablo Cruise. After a long hiatus, Crawdaddy returned to the music business in 2015 with his independent release, Vaporized.

For his latest project, he joined a long list of artists who have entrusted the brilliant Kid Andersen and his Greaseland Studios to make their musical vision come to life. In addition to recording and producing the album, Andersen also contributes on guitar, bass, Hammond B3 organ, and Wurlitzer piano. Crawdaddy is featured on guitar as well as lead vocal on four cuts.

Several members of the backing band have played on all of three of Cradaddy’s recent releases – Baxter Robertson on piano and vocals, Jim Dewrance on vocals and harmonica, Greg Jones on bass and Peter Booras on drums. June Core and Donnie Green also contribute on drums. The horn section features returnees Michael Peloquin on tenor saxophone and Marcel Marchetti on trumpet, plus Doug Rowan on baritone sax and Mike Rinta on trombone.

On the opener, guest vocalist Marcel Smith gives “Big Hurt” a deep, soulful sound, his mournful cries answered by Crawdaddy’s cutting guitar licks. Smith makes another appearance on the closer, “Rain Of Tears,” one of three songs recycled from the Vaporized recording. He once again draws listeners in, his exceptional voice giving them a palpable sense of the sorrow and heartache portrayed in the lyrics. Lisa Leuschner Andersen helps out on backing vocals. John Blues Boyd takes listeners down in the alley on a B.B. King slow blues, “Ten Long Years,” his raw vocals matched by the intensity of the bent notes Crawdaddy elicits from his guitar.

“Steppin’ Out” is one of four tracks with the leader taking over the lead vocal role, sharing the spotlight with Andersen on the Hammond organ and another guest, Quique Gomez, blowing sweet harmonica accompaniment. The band tears through a cover of “Bony Moronie,” Crawdaddy’s vocal exuding a sense of calm in contrast to the wild sounds surrounding him. “Mean Man” has plenty of six string fireworks wrapped around a brawny tenor solo from Peloquin. Fans of Little Milton will recognize “That’s What Love Will Do”. Crawdaddy may not have Milton’s vocal skills, but the arrangement brings out the best in his singing style.

The proceedings shift gears on a cover of Frank Frost’s “My Back Scratcher,” with Dewrance on vocals and harmonica, the band laying down a slinky, belly-rubbing groove that harks back to the Slim Harpo sound. Dewrance is also featured on “Country Girl (Home At Last),” a tight, Chicago-style shuffle with Robert Welsh setting the mood with some usual fine piano playing. Robertson gives Johnny Taylor’s “Need Another Favor” a solid reading while Crawdaddy takes his time on his solo segment, slipping in some references to the B.B. King style.

Blues Blast senior writer Marty Gunther found plenty to like on Slow Cookin’, Crawdaddy’s previous release. The guitarist keeps the streak going, putting together another strong offering built around his incisive fretwork. Andersen once again brings all of the pieces together to frame each song in a glorious mix that allows listeners to appreciate each and every contribution.

It sure sounds like everybody had a whole lot of fun recording this project. You owe to yourself to check it out!

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 – 3 of 6 

imageDave Riley & Bob Corritore – Travelin’ The Dirt Road

Vizztone Label Group

12 tracks

Originally released on Blue Witch records in 2007, Bob Corritore has remastered and updated this great album of 10 original Dave Riley cuts and a pair of tunes written by Dave’s longtime friend and bandmate John Weston. Recorded over three sessions in 2005 and 2006 in Tempe, AZ, the songs feature the fine guitar and vocals of Dave Riley and the always stellar harp of Bob Corritore. Two of the tracks are newly released. Joining Dave and Bob are Johnny Rapp on guitar for 10 tracks, Matt Bishop on piano for a pair of cuts, Dave’s son Dave, Jr, ion bass for 8 songs, Paul Thomas on two tracks on bass, and Tom Coulson on drums for 10 tracks.

Riley goes acoustic with Dave in support without backing on a pair of cuts, “Overalls” and Safe At Last.” Both have a great down home, front porch feel to them, where one can imagine being in the Mississippi Delta on a hot afternoon sipping some iced tea or lemonade and listening to these two just play and sing effortlessly and joyfully. The album opens with the swinging “I’m Not Your Junkman,” a song about Dave’s trash talking woman. There is some nice guitar work and of course Corritore blows impressive harp. The title track follows, a driving cut with impressive harp soloing. “Come Here Woman” follows the first acoustic cut, a slow and low down and dirty blues. With harp and ax laying it out for us. “Let’s Have Some Fun Together” is next and features a pretty instrumental opening. More great harp and guitar and, of course, Riley’s passionate vocals.

The pace picks up a bit with “My Baby’s Gone;” Riley sings that he moans for his baby but the pacing expresses hope. We get a nice piano solo here, the first of three. “Voodoo Woman, Voodoo Man” is up after that, more slow blues with expressive vocals, harp and guitar and some piano thrown in the mix for fun, too. Up next is “Way Back Home” where Riley plays and sings with intensity. Corritore stays solidly great and the piano adds dimension to the mix. “Doggone Blues” features more slow and pretty blues. The guitar and harp are intense and the vocals are filled with grit. “Country Tough” picks up the pace again tempo-wise and offers variety. A big guitar intro opens “Friends” as Riley again sings with passion and Corritore plays more mean harp. The other acoustic cut concludes the album.

Bob Corritore’s vault of music is like a diamond mine; it has so many gems in it ready for the picking, cleaning up and releasing. I enjoyed listening to and reviewing their first collaborative album together Lucky To Be Living in 2009 on Blue Witch (along with 2013’s Hush Your Fuss! and relish finally adding this set of tunes to my collection. It’s really great stuff!

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.

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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 6 

imageFabrizio Poggi – For You

Appaloosa Records

10 songs – 34 minutes

Harp player Fabrizio Poggi soared to the heights of the American music scene in partnership with Guy Davis in 2018 for Sonny & Brownie’s Last Train, which was a Grammy finalist, but shifts gears from Piedmont stylings here for a distinctly different follow-up, a gentle treasure that blends classical blues, gospel, folk, jazz and world music while delivering a deep, spiritual message of love and hope for a troubled world.

Based out of Milan, where he fronts the band Chicken Mambo and he’s to be considered the Italian version of Ry Cooder, Poggi is no stranger to American audiences. In addition to appearances on Davis’ three most recent recordings, he’s played everywhere from Carnegie Hall to Mississippi jukes and Texas roadhouses, and penned books on blues history and harp players, too, one of which was illustrated by Robert Crumb.

This is Fabrizio’s 23rd album in a career that’s included recording with Ruthie Foster, W.C. Clark, Lavelle White, Mike Zito, Carolyn Wonderland, Eric Bibb, Ronnie Earl, Bob Margolin, Tex Mex great Flaco Jimenez and others. A sweet tenor, he also plays ukulele and acoustic guitar on this one, which was recorded, arranged and produced by Stefano Spina, who adds keyboards, bass and percussion.

They’re backed by an interesting mix of musicians, including Arsene Duevi (classical guitar and vocals), Enrico Polverari and Giampiero Spina (acoustic and electric guitars), Tito Mangialajo Rantzer (bass), Pee Wee Durante and Stefano Intelisano (keyboards), Tullio Ricci (sax), Luca Calabrese (trumpet) as well as backing vocals from Laura Cerri, Elena Garbelli, Francesca Lucarelli, Veronique Mangini, Massimo Minardi, Marco Mutti, Marilisa Rotondo, Simone Scarsellini, Ilaria Scola, Rossana Torri and Mauro Vantadori.

A set that features complex, multi-layered instrumentation as the lineup suggests, For You is a change of pace for U.S. fans who are familiar with Fabrizio’s skill as a Piedmont-style harp player. A blend of originals and updates of songs from the American songbook, it’s primarily a collection of blues-infused ballads that mirrors the somber feeling most folks are experiencing in the current world and gradually instills hope for brighter future with each passing tune.

A brief, quiet instrumental run featuring Calabrese’s trumpet opens the familiar “Keep on Walkin’” with Poggi unhurriedly delivering an anthem of hope used prominently in the Civil Rights movement. It flows smoothly in to a take on the “If These Wings,” which also opens with a trumpet flourish as it insists that “there is no grave that can hold my body down.”

The mood brightens a little as Fabrizio follows with “Chariot” – a rearrangement of the familiar “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” a tune penned in the 1860s by Wallis Willis, a Choctaw freedman living in Indian Territory in what’s now Oklahoma. And it brightens a little more with the optimistic “Don’t Get Worried,” a lesser-known traditional that opens with an electric guitar run and quickly evolves into a driving blues. The first half of the set concludes with an unhurried, electrified version of “I’m Going There” in which Poggi’s harp runs counterpoint to the melody throughout.

A reinterpretation of Eric Bibb’s love song, “For You,” opens the second half of the disc, which includes all of the new material. It’s a sweet ballad that insists the singer would “walk across a burning desert bearing water to quench your thirst.” The Poggi original, “My Name Is Earth,” is up next, questioning in first person whether the listener cares about Mother Nature, building in intensity aided by a choir before easing back to allow for time to ponder during orchestration infused with jazz and blues.

Optimism sets in with the voices of children that open a take on the traditional “Just Love” and the message that the singer’s going to a land where there’s no depression and free from care, then takes listeners to church with the sweet, bright Fabrizio original “Sweet Jesus.” The disc concludes with another pleaser co-written with Spina. Entitled “It’s Not Too Late” and delivered by Duevi and Poggi in both English and Italian, it’s a timely reminder to keep the faith because there are brighter times ahead.

Sure, this isn’t your typical blues. If you’re looking for the old one-four-five, songs of protest and images of life on the street, look elsewhere. But if you’re interested in a little spiritual healing, this one’s definitely a welcome massage for the soul!

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.

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6 

imageLloyd Jones – Tennessee Run

14 songs – 45 minutes

Vizztone Label Group

One of the most soulful guitarists ever to come out of the Pacific Northwest, Lloyd Jones gathers together several top musicians from Nashville for this tour de force album, an all-original set that delivers a heaping helping of the swamp-infused blues and roots he’s been delivering since the ‘70s.

A native of Portland, Ore., Jones grew up in a musical family and turned to the guitar in his teens after playing drums professionally with his brother. Deeply influenced by Chicago blues and R&B, Lloyd’s early years were filled with the sounds of Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, James Brown and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee and encouragement from both harp giant Big Walter Horton and S.P. Leary, the legendary timekeeper for both Muddy and Howlin’ Wolf.

Jones fronted the pop band Brown Sugar, a regional favorite, through the late ‘70s after replacing his brother in the lineup, and eventually formed a partnership with Curtis Salgado in a duo that endured until the vocalist split for the East Coast to join Roomful of Blues in the mid-‘80s. Lloyd subsequently split his time between his own bands and work with Big Mama Thornton, Albert Collins, Charlie Musselwhite, Tommy Castro and others. A gifted tunesmith, his songs have been recorded by Salgado, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Joe Louis Walker and Coco Montoya.

Lloyd received inspiration for this disc while sailing on Delbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Cruise. Delbert, Teresa James and Portland powerhouse LaRhonda Steele all appear as special guests, delivering vocals on one cut each. Recorded and mixed by Grammy-nominated multi-instrumentalist Kevin McKendree at his Rock House studio in Franklin, Tenn., the lineup includes McKendree on keys with Steve Mackey on bass, Jim Hoke on tenor sax, Quentin Ware on trumpet, Roy Agee on trombone, Kenneth Blevins and Reinhardt Melz on percussion and Etta Britt and Jackie Wilson on backing vocals.

Jones fires out of the gate with a fat, chunky guitar run to open “You Got Me Good,” a horn-propelled blue-eyed soul pleaser that blazes ahead throughout atop a driving rhythm. The feel continues in the medium-fast shuffle, “Me & You,” which celebrates the sparks that fly when the lovebirds are together, before Teresa joins the action, sharing the mic for “I Wish I Could Remember Loving You,” a roadhouse rocker delivered with parallel vocal lines and tasty work on the fretboard and 88s.

The love theme takes a momentary backseat for “Where’s My Phone?” It’s a funky, James Brown-inspired number that opens with a hit of rap as it recounts the unsuccessful search in a percussive stop-time R&B before the unhurried ballad, “A True Love Never Dies,” provides an opportunity to cuddle closely on the dance floor and Bayou Boys” — one of two tunes co-written with McKendree and Grammy winner Gary Nicholson – delivers a tip of the hat to south Louisiana in a style that would make the Meters smile.

Delbert joins the fray for the bluesy rocker “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool” as Lloyd and Kevin lay down steady riffs to keep things moving steadily forward. The horn-powered “Turn Me Loose” swings from the jump before “That’s All I Want,” another Gulf Coast treat, features LaRhonda as it describes the ecstasy involved in hearing the lady’s voice and sharing a kiss or two, a message that’s repeated in “Love Is Everything.”

Jones’ thoughts turn to food with “Chicken Bones.” All he wants is the meat, but his lady’s split, leaving him with nothing but the frame – and plenty of space for his musicians to display their talent. The Southern rocker, “Every Time We Meet,” puts a smile on his face once more before “Dilly Dally,” a wha-wha-pedaled tune with a Dr. John feel, and rocker “Chevrolet Angel” power the set to close.

Don’t be fooled by the title. Tennessee Run was recorded in the Volunteer State, but definitely conveys the feel of the Big Easy and Louisiana swamp throughout. The warmth of the people, heat of the music and sweet licks shine in every cut. 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.


 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6 

imageKaz Hawkins – Memories Of

self release

10 songs time – 41:45

Northern Irish songstress Kaz Hawkins lends her big brassy voice to songs taken from her successful European touring show “Memories of Etta James” covering many of Ms. James’ most iconic songs and giving some a different treatment. She gives good energetic readings of Etta’s songs. She enlisted a very capable band that includes a horn section to punch up the energy.

Among the stand out tracks are the classic “Tell Mama”, “Blind Girl”(usually known as “I’d Rather Go Blind”) and of course “At Last”. Her vocal delivery on the ballad “Losers Weepers” makes her similarity to Etta’s voice all the more evident. She squeezes ever drop of emotion out of “Blind Girl”. Otis Redding’s “Mr. Pitiful” is rightly transformed into “Miss Pitiful” in a powerful version. Her voice approaches the sound of a horn at times on the old chestnut “St. Louis Blues”.

The horn section blasts behind her high powered vocal on “I Just Wanna Make Love To You”. The version of “Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful” drifts back and forth from the sound of the original to a rhythm & blues treatment. “Tell Mama” pretty much follows Etta’s delivery. “At Last”, perhaps her signature song, closes out the CD on a high note just as it should. A two piece string section manages to attain the depth of a full string section would, probably from overdubs.

Kaz achieves a good representation of Etta James’ legacy while adding creative touches of her own. This is not to slight the talented musicians supporting her vocal efforts. Stef Paglia contributes a tasty slide guitar solo to “Spoonful” and a distortion solo to “Tell Mama”. Sam York covers the keyboard spectrum that is essential to this R&B sound. Crack rhythm, horn and string sections round out the sound. In the end a very worthy representation of the Etta James sound. Kaz Hawkins has the necessary tools for the job.

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

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