Issue 14-5 January 30, 2020

Cover photo © 2020 Bob Kieser

Mark Thompson has our feature interview with Larry McCray. We have 6 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, Nico Chona & The Freshtones, Screamin’ John and TD Lind, Bees Deluxe, Jimmy Carpenter and Carolyn Gaines.

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

 Featured Interview – Larry McCray 

imageIt has been almost five years since the last Blues Blast interview with guitarist Larry McCray, conducted by Terry Mullins. At that time, he was finishing up a new project that was released as The Gibson Sessions, featuring twelve classic rock songs like “Can’t You See,’ “Night Moves,” “Wild Horses,” and “Born On The Bayou,” all injected with the McCray’s forceful approach that extends from blues to hard rocking tunes with room for some soulful struts in between. He also enlisted a number of top-flight pickers to come along for the ride, including Derek Trucks, David Hidalgo, Dickey Betts, and Jimmy Herring. Last year he also played on two tracks on the latest from the godfather of British blues, John Mayall’s Nobody Told Me.

While the guitarist is fired up and ready to go, the recent years have brought a few challenges.

“There has been a lot going on. I was sick, found out I had prostate cancer in 2014. They did surgery in 2015 and I have made a complete recovery from that. So I feel like I have a new lease on life. A lot of things are in the right position. It is time for something good to happen and I am feeling good about playing music again. I have been writing some new material and there are some other people helping me out to come up with some tunes. I want to put together a real good, solid project so that we can hopefully go into the studio in March to start recording”.

Once the project is recorded, the guitarist plans to shop it around to some of the blues record labels. If he can’t generate any interest, he is prepared to do another release on his Magnolia label. After a checkered career with several larger labels, McCray was tired of working hard, seemingly without getting anywhere.

“I made a lot of bad decisions early on in my career. There was so much going on in the business back around 2000, and it seemed like the only way to recover from that was to get more involved and have some say it what I was putting out. My awareness level about what was going on wasn’t where it needed to be. When I first got involved, I believed that the music label was your friend. I wasn’t aware that needed to negotiate for a better situation for your own being, for your own interests.

“You have to learn to fight for your publishing rights to songs, for your royalties. It was a rude awakening to me about the music business. I thought that if you sang and played well, good things will come to you. And if you have never dealt with that kind of situation before, you have no idea of what is proper. Unfortunately, you don’t have a clue until you have been through it. When you do finally wake up and find out what’s going on, it is usually to late to make improvements on that situation. Having recordings on my own label helps you get instant gratification, because you are selling your own product off the stage. And the difference is that you are taking home $20 for a product as opposed to a $1.35”.

Growing up in Arkansas, McCray had eight brothers and sisters. “My brother Steve was the last one, and I was before him. He has been my drummer for years. Come to find out that isn’t a whole lot of kids by some standards. My mother came from a family of eighteen kids. Then I have had a friend that had twenty-two in his family. I thought, wow, we weren’t even getting warmed up to compared to them. These days people can’t have families that size. You couldn’t afford it unless you are rich”.

imageThe family played music, especially McCray’s father and his sister, Clara, who was well-known locally for her skills as a guitar player. Her brother got started on a different instrument.

“Believe it or not, I began on saxophone in the school band. Of course, I did not have a saxophone. So I used to drag this big sax home from school every day. We only lived three miles from the school! In those days, we walked home. I love saxophone music, but it was a complicated instrument for me. In 1971, I left Arkansas and moved to Saginaw, MI with my sister. She had lots of instruments around, including a couple electric guitars. Once I tried one of those, I realized that guitar was a lot more natural for me. I was around it, it was acceptable, and I could watch her to get started”.

“My brother Carl got interested in bass, and Steve wanted to play drums, so we had a trio. We used to practice in our bedroom upstairs, right above our parent’s bedroom. They let us practice up there to keep us home and out of trouble. After that, we moved into the carport. That brought our buddies and all of the neighborhood kids started hanging out. That gave us an instant audience, and gave us the inspiration to be better. We didn’t have the accessibility to really study music properly in order to take it to the highest level”.

The home practice regimen continued until McCray was almost seventeen. Their first gig as band was at the wedding for some friends around 1976. Upon graduating high school, the guitarist took a position in a General Motors plant.

“At that particular time, I didn’t know how to go about contacting someone to help book the band out of the area. To be honest, I thought it was so far-fetched that I didn’t even have a dream of being in music. I didn’t think it was possible, that music was for an elite class that didn’t include me. From high school on, I played music because I love it – and blues was the music that I loved. But then I learned that I also liked jazz, rock, and even high-intensity level country picking from Nashville, anything that sounded good and would help me improve my skills”.

Even though he was working a day job, McCray practiced all the time when he had a spare moment.

“This guy showed me how to play a scale. I appreciated that and was drilling, trying to learn how to play the scale. Once I had that down, I started hearing major and minors, plus other voices in the chord. I did the best I could without proper training. But I did what my ears and mind envisioned me to do. If I couldn’t do it like I heard it, I at least tried to capture the essence of the situation”.

Not accounting for several lay-offs, the stint with General Motors lasted from 1978 to 1990, when he quit to focus on his music career.

“ I busted a window with my hand, and I was out of there. I was under a lot of pressure that at the time. I guess they wanted me to quit. I was trying to get a leave or a sabbatical, but that never happened. My hand was screwed up so I couldn’t play for about two years. It was time to go because I didn’t want to fight it any more. They did it for several other people, but not for me. It was a good time to do it in 1990, because they were looking for people to leave, to take what was called the “golden handshake,” so much money for their time, good riddance, and enjoy! General Motors wanted your allegiance. If you had any sort of vision or expressed anything that stepped outside the thinking on the line, that was considered rebellious as far as they were concerned. Those were some strange days”.

imageThe impetus to get his music career going came as a result of McCray attending a musicians party near. Farmington, MI.

“It was the biggest party I had ever been to, with at least 500 people. It was on a horse ranch, a beautiful setting, done picnic style. All these musicians were playing, all trying to get up there at the same time. Once things started to mellow out, my brothers and I did a short set. When we finished, this guy came up and started telling me he could do this and he could do that, the old song and dance I had heard before. I exchanged information with him, so he called me to do a recording session, which I blew off. And he called me back, we set it up again, and once again I didn’t show up. The third time he told me I was going to mess things up if I didn’t show up”.

“By this time, I decided the guy was serious. We got together to write some songs, then rode down to the recording studio. That was one of the first mistakes I made. We just went it and started tracking. I didn’t know anything, didn’t ask any questions. Next thing I know, we are signed to a contract that had us wrapped up and covered like big blanket! It has been one mistake after another for me business-wise. It took some doing to get out of that one. Now I am looking to redeem some of that in the second stanza, if you know what I mean”.

“One thing led to another. We finished the record and next thing I know we are leaving for a European tour with Gary Moore. The first few dates were in the UK, then on to Scandinavia and Germany. What a tour for a kid from Saginaw who hadn’t been anywhere! I got to see the wizardry of Gary Moore first hand on these big stages, one of the best ever. You know, we did little tours around Michigan, but not much out-of-state. I did go to Chicago once, backing Lazy Lester in 1986, and got to see the 3rd annual Chicago Blues Festival. Lester was a sweet soul, a hell of a man. I never saw him get mad at anybody. He used to love his beer when he was younger, and country music, too. I played with him a bunch of times. I think I know of someone who has an unreleased recording of him with me and my two brothers. I don’t know what they are going to do with that one”.

“My father passed when I was coming up on my seventeenth birthday. When I met Lester, he liked to carry on and jive, and all that stuff. But he took a liking to me. We got along really good. One of the last places I saw him was down in Brazil, when I did some stuff with Lester and guitarist Robert “Bilbo” Walker. I always enjoyed being with the old-timers, because that is how I learned. It was an easy transition for me to go from what I was doing, to fit in with that kind of situation. I believe that I had enough insight that I brought some good flavor, able to make a good contribution. I felt where they were coming from.

“I met Lester through Fred Reif, a gentleman in Saginaw who used to book bands and play some washboard. He worked with Lester, Piano Red, George “Wild Child” Butler, and Sharrie Williams. Fred just wrote a biography about the Saginaw blues scene in the 1960s. (Tell ‘Em ‘Bout The Blues). There aren’t many blues heavyweights left no more. Now it seems that if you don’t conform or fit a certain profile, the opportunities don’t come around. It is hard to be original”.

When asked to describe his style of blues music, McCray was ready with an illuminating response.

image“My music forms a melting pot. I don’t think what I have recorded to this point has been a very good example of what the potential of my music is, because there has always been some questionable stuff going on. The production of our recordings has suffered due to lack of opportunities. This next time around is going to be much more relaxed, more indicative of where we are now. In terms of categories, the music has a little funk with a lot of blues. There is a little country twang now and then, plus we mix a little Latin rhythm in there when we think we can pull it off without taking the music out of context. I have never restricted myself. Your influences will show up in your music, but you need to be recognizable for your own style. Coming from me, it’s going to have an edge to it, and it’s going to be rocking”.

For equipment, the guitarist is currently using a 1971 Fender Deluxe Reverb amplifier that has been tweaked out. His simple effects board is limited to just three units, a Dunlop wah-wah, a Rocktron Austin Gold overdrive, and a Fulltone OCD overdrive/distortion pedal. Gibson guitars are still his go-to choice, but some other models have caught his eye.

“Back a few years ago, I discovered Guild and DeArmond, an old division of Guild guitars, which I like to use for a change of pace. My main instruments are still the Gibson Les Paul and my Flying V. Gibson guitars are still my number one choice. But it is nice to change things up to give yourself a different feel. Gibson was the only company that stepped up and helped out some blues artists, including myself. I love them for their integrity, and the willingness to help out artists in need”.

“Albert King is probably my all-time favorite blues guitar player. It is not easy to copy his licks because of the way he bent the strings. With that being said, on that first tour I saw Gary Moore playing a Les Paul with Humbucker pick-ups. When I got back from the tour, my Fender guitar just didn’t stand up to Gary’s sound. In those days, everybody playing guitar in Chicago was either playing a Gibson Es-335 of a Fender Strat. I wanted my own identity, and I wanted a guitar with Humbuckers. So I decided to try the Flying V. Once I started playing, the accessibility to the neck and the way it performed, halfway between a Les Paul and an ES-335, I was sold. That had my name all over it! It became a signature for me. It was about the sound, but it ended like paying a tribute to Albert”.

‘The thing that I feel blessed about is that I got to meet all of my heroes except Freddie King. I knew B.B. King quite well. I knew Albert Collins, we played a lot of gigs together. And I knew Albert King, and got to play with Fenton Robinson, KoKo Taylor, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, and the list goes on. I came along at the right time to meet them all. Now I would like to try to do something with someone from the generation before me. I missed out on three very significant opportunities, at least in my mind. They would have been with Luther Allison, Lazy Lester, and James Cotton. And also a great guitar player from Detroit, Johnnie Bassett, who I did a project with, but it has never come out”.

“Lester and I had talked about recording for years, but never got around to doing it. I did get to record with Cotton on his Grammy-winning album, Living The Blues. I wish I could have made a record with Barrelhouse Chuck, a great guy and one of my favorite piano players. Besides documenting my own music, I think it is important to do something with some of my favorite people that are still playing. One project I hope I don’t miss would be with Lucky Peterson. I appeared on one of his albums. Now I would like to do a complete project with him. That would be a dream come true. I am hoping to capture my true creativity on a record before it is all said and done”.

For more information on Larry MCray, see Terry Mullins interview from 2014 here:

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!



 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6 

imageJimmy “Duck” Holmes – Cypress Grove

Easy Eye Sound

11 songs time – 38:57

72 year old Jimmy “Duck” Holmes is pretty much the last link to the Bentonia, Mississippi tradition of the country blues. As the proprietor of the longest running juke joint in America, Jimmy tries to instill the essence of his musical heritage, whether it be in front of a few or hundreds. The crude off-handedness is captured here by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach. Jimmy recorded his portion of the recording in a mere three hours and Dan and others added their sonic touches. Modern electric guitar flourishes contribute to the haunting and stark quality of the music.

Skip James’ “Hard Times” leads off being the sole song with just Jimmy and his acoustic guitar. The guitar here for lack of a better description sounds “stringy”. Another James classic blues number “Cypress Grove” is Jimmy with a drummer and bass player. A short but good interpretation. Auerbach makes his first appearance on electric guitar on the perennial “Catfish Blues”. Auerbach carries the riff and interjects some guitar stabs to heighten the musical tension.

Jimmy Rogers’ “Goin’ Away Baby” has the electric guitar adding a didgeridoo-like sound for an exotic twist. A jarring metallic guitar surge invigorates the song. Marcus King introduces his admirable and ominous slide guitar skills to Muddy Waters’ “Rock Me”. The song is carried along in a loose groove. The Willie Dixon penned Howlin’ Wolf signature song “Little Red Rooster” is rendered virtually unrecognizable except for the slightly rewritten lyrics. It’s basically a recitation over a new riff. Leon Michels adds saxophone.

Auerbach sits out for yet another Skip James classic “Devil Got My Woman”. Jimmy and bass and drums. Jimmy’s plaintive vocalizing here as elsewhere throughout the album. Marcus King gives a guitar assist to Auerbach once again on the original “All Night Long”, a trance-like number that mainly consists of repeating the title over and over. Marcus’s slide once again cuts through the night.

Jimmy describes the inevitable reality in the wonderfully ragged “Gonna Get Old Someday”. Jessie Mae Brooks’ “Train Train” displays the resonance of Jimmy’s world weary voice. Auerbach’s reliable haunting guitar bluesifys the song down to the crossroads. Jimmy describes the attributes of his little bitty and big fat woman in “Two Women”.

Purchase this gem that harkens back to a simpler time of the blues and let it soak in because sooner than we wish to think the real deal “dyed in the wool” bluesmen will be a thing of the past and we will be left with musicians trying to keep the blues going. Dan Auerbach has a knack for adding modern touches that fit sonically into the ragged vibe. That isn’t a bad thing but the guys that came up through hard times that lived the sagas in their songs will be a memory. Treat yourself to this living history lesson.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 6 

imageNico Chona & The Freshtones

Electric George Records

11 songs – 51 minutes

Based out of Lyon, France, Nico Chona & The Freshtones are a hard-driving, hard-to-classify four-piece ensemble who make their recording debut on this album, which liberally mixes blues, rock and American roots throughout and frequently shifts gears within songs.

They’re fronted by lead guitarist/lead singer Nico Chona, who began writing tunes at age 14 in the late 2000s, primarily influenced by sounds emanating from the U.S. and U.K. in the ‘60s and ‘70s – Muddy Waters, early ZZ Top, Cream and Crosby Stills Nash & Young among them.

He’s backed by a trio of childhood friends: bassist Dan Nambotin, guitarist Joris Perrin and drummer Nicholas Gamet, all of whom provide backing harmonies as they deliver an energetic brand of music packed with occasion surprises when they shift between stylings.

This CD was recorded live to a 24-track tape recorder at Magneto Studios in Lyon and consists of ten originals and one cover, all delivered in English with little or no accent from the band’s homeland, where they’ve been playing some of the larger music festivals.

The opener, “Wheels of Obsession,” begins with the roar of an engine before the group launches into a driving boogie, then slows and drops volume dramatically to make way for lyrics that promise to take a companion to somewhere in the south where no one’s waiting before shifting gears and picking up speed once more. Chona’s vocals are somewhat lost in the mix, but are pleasant, and the rhythm section is tight.

The sound shifts quietly to the Delta for the opening and slowly picks up speed and intensity before erupting once again in “Run,” continuing the travel theme and describing an encounter with a black cat late at night. Nico’s guitar blazes in full blues-rock fury to carry the song home. The boogie comes with stop-time feel in the uptempo “Screen Boy,” an invitation to another person to “drop the digital world” and join the band on its ride.

“Again and Again” opens with the sound of shifting through an assortment of radio stations before the band launches into a semi-acoustic ballad that’s much lighter than what’s come before. It echoes ‘60s folk-rock with minor psychedelic overtones as it describes an encounter with someone who’s been watching the singer intently for a long time. The feel continues in another ballad, “The Heat,” which features pleasant choral work on the chorus before returning to the blues-rock root to end.

The hard-charging “Black Sky Man” starts slowly with more sounds of an engine experiencing difficulties before firing. It’s another boogie with an inventive rhythm pattern, but yields to more sounds of the Delta in the haunting “Hello,” another solicitation to walk and talk in the early morning.

The ‘60s are back in style for “The Winning Wind,” which is breezy at first before building intensity. A cover of Hambone Willie Newbern’s 1929 Okeh Records classic “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” gets a supercharged redo before “Goldtop Sunday Blues” reflects on a lady who’s a delight on the weekend, but a devil when Monday comes. The disc closes with “Catalin Crest,” a sweet ballad that picks up steam slowly as it recounts good times laying in the sun next to a lady love.

Available through iTunes and several other outlets, Nico Chona & The Freshtones strike a positive chord. If you’re looking for something definitely different, this one could be right for you.

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 – 3 of 6 

imageScreamin’ John and TD Lind – Mr. Little Big Man

Down in the Alley Records

CD: 11 Songs, 36 Minutes

Styles: Blues Covers, Contemporary Electric Blues Rock

Mr. Little Big Man, from Britain/Kentucky-based Screamin’ John and TD Lind, is like an individual-sized bag of jalapeno chips. The serving size may be a bit meager (36 minutes), but a boatload of flavor lies inside. Just as there are different brands of crunchy sodium-imbued snacks, this duo brings their own brand of burning-hot blues to such covers as Jimmy Reed’s “Shame, Shame, Shame,” Taj Mahal’s “Jelly Roll,” and Magic Sam’s “All Your Love.” They also include tasty original numbers, with “Rollin’ Joanna” and “Reaper’s Knockin’” taking top honors. The band’s style is earthy without being crude, contemporary without being pop-ish, and blunt without being brutal. They present good, solid entertainment, unpretentious yet unique.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Glyn Johns, the album’s producer, has high praise for John and Lind: “This is a group of exceptional musicians. Which is borne out of the fact that with only three or four hours of rehearsals and only two days in a studio, they were able to come up with such impressive performances of the material on this album. This was a wonderful experience for me. It was all over in a blur, and before I knew it, I was back on a plane to London with a large grin on my face, knowing that they had accomplished something quite special.”

These indeed-exceptional musicians include Screamin’ John Hawkins on guitars; TD Lind on vocals, guitar and piano; Jeff Crane on bass and backing vocals; Paul Culligan on drums and percussion, and Joel Pinkerton on harmonica.

“Goodnight Irene” is one of the most iconic entries in the blues lexicon. Composed and performed by Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter in 1933, has inspired not only countless covers, but a John Mellencamp song and a Ken Kesey novel, Sometimes a Great Notion (his most famous work is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). “Goodnight, Irene” is a meme in the best sense of the word: everybody wants to sing it, hum it, howl it on harmonica, and strum it on guitar. From barbershop quartets to a certain gentleman nicknamed Mr. Slowhand, it’s a perennial favorite.

Why? Listen to this cover and find out. For the first time in forever, yours truly was freshly moved by its message. Screamin’ John and TD Lind perform it with the fraught passion of Dostoevsky and the melancholy of Shakespeare – Hamlet, to be exact. “To jump in the river and drown, that is the question…” In the play, it is Ophelia who drowns, but Irene just might urge our narrator to take his final plunge. That’s the power and poignancy these two contribute.

A note on “Reaper’s Walkin’” – it’s original, but you’d swear one of the prewar blues masters wrote it. Stomp and clap and enjoy yourself. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow Death “be knockin’ on your door.” It’s the perfect closer to a nearly-perfect homage album.

Mr. Little Big Man may be short, but it’s one SPICY CD!

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 6 

imageBees Deluxe – Mouthful of Bees

Self-Produced/Slapping Cat Records

CD: 10 Songs, 36 Minutes

Styles: Acid Blues, Guitar Monster Blues, Blues Covers

Full disclosure: You have to be a certain type of blues fan, and a certain type of acid-rock fan, to be all abuzz about Boston’s Bees Deluxe. Ever heard Tim Wilson’s “Acid Country?” Mouthful of Bees is acid blues. Fortunately for devotees of the classic variety, in the course of ten tracks, they present covers such as Etta James’ “Damn Your Eyes,” Bobby Bland’s “I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog (The Way You Treated Me),” and Earl Green’s “Homework.” Their overall oeuvre may be deemed eclectic, experimental, and definitely post-Gen-X.

Sure, they pay homage to such psychedelic pioneers as Jimi Hendrix, Alice Cooper and the Grateful Dead, but theirs ain’t your (or your father’s, in my case) “experiences.” Keep that in mind as you listen. Instrumentally, their brilliance lies in what lies beneath the threshold of hearing, the eerie subliminal messages in their songs without lyrics. Close your eyes and imagine you’re at a concert – or go to a live one.

How did Mouthful of Bees come to be? After driving from Maine to Florida and all points in between, the band locked themselves in the studio with producer Joe Egan and played a large chunk of their stage repertoire direct-to-tape. Explains lead guitarist/singer Conrad Warre, “Our last album contained all originals, so this time we thought it might be a nice change to record a few of our favorite songs that we’ve honed to a steel finish after playing them to audiences up and down the East Coast. So we played a live gig in the studio and mixed a handful of the songs a day later.”

Bees Deluxe consists of Conrad Warre on lead guitar and vocals; Carol Band on keyboards, harmonica and vocals; Allyn Dorr on bass and vocals, and Paul Giovine on drums and percussion.

“Voodoo Doll” plunges us headfirst into the psychedelic pool. It should be the first item Google shows you if you search for “screaming guitar.” If you want to know what this band’s signature style is, look no further. The blues covers that follow may be some of their faves, such as tracks two, six and eight, but if you’ve never heard of Bees Deluxe, this CD’s opener is the one to hear.

Another focal point is number seven, “For the Love of a Woman.” Lo and behold, it’s almost traditional – a marvel in the midst of mercurial madness. Don’t be afraid to break out the air shredder, whether you’re at home or in a crowd. “Palace of the King” and “Blue + Yellow” are also notable, particularly the latter. It sounds like something Clapton or ZZ Top would have played in their younger days. Not only that, but it’ll make boisterous Boomers sit up and pay attention.

Mouthful of Bees demonstrates what it means to uncover songs – to discover their esoteric meanings – as well as to cover them!

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 – 5 of 6 

imageJimmy Carpenter – Soul Doctor

Gulf Coast Records

CD: 10 Songs, 45 Minutes

Styles: Horn Blues, Soul, Contemporary Electric Blues Rock

Horn maverick Jimmy Carpenter is the Soul Doctor the 21st century sorely needs. Not only is he a powerhouse vocalist and killer songwriter, but his sax is second to none. It sings. It roars. It tells stories of lost love, found love, a “Wrong Turn” or two, and New Orleans. His newest album features ten tracks (seven originals and three covers) as hot as a boiling pot of gumbo. Instrumentally, there’s a lot going on, which can be overwhelming – as in the first song. Nevertheless, such an approach tells listeners that Carpenter and company wield their music like Thor’s hammer: unparalleled and unstoppable. Need more proof? Listen and dance for yourself.

Jimmy began his musical journey over 35 years ago. In the ‘80s, he toured the East Coast with the renegade blues band The Alka-Phonics, and in the ’90s with the blues-rock band The Believers, with whom he learned about the music business. Over the years, Jimmy has toured internationally with Tinsley Ellis, Jimmy Thackery, Walter Wolfman Washington, Eric Lindell, and others. In 2012 Jimmy joined Mike Zito, his long-time musical cohort, and recorded and toured as a member of Mike Zito and the Wheel. In addition, Jimmy has written, arranged and recorded the horns for many artists, and has gained a reputation as a master Blues, Rock-n-Roll and R&B saxophonist. Jimmy has also released three solo albums: Toiling in Obscurity (2008); Walk Away (Vizztone 2014), and Jimmy Carpenter Plays the Blues (Vizztone 2017). After many years in New Orleans, he currently lives in Las Vegas with his partner in crime and musical inspiration, Ms. Carrie Stowers. In addition to leading his own band and playing with numerous others, he is the Musical Director for the Big Blues Bender and leader of the Bender Brass, The Bender’s house band. He is the current president of the Las Vegas Blues Society, and in 2019 was nominated for a Blues Music Award, his fourth for Best Instrumentalist/Horn.

Musicians include Jimmy Carpenter on lead vocals, sax and guitar; Cameron Tyler on drums, percussion and background vox; Jason Langley on bass; Trevor Johnson on guitar; Chris Tofield on guitar and background vocals; Nick Schlebelen on guitar for track one; Mike Zito on guitar for track four; Red Young on Hammond B3, piano, and Wurlitzer piano; Carrie Stowers, Queen Aries, and harpist Al Ek on background vocals; Doug Woolverton on trumpet, and Mark Earley on baritone sax.

Standout tracks include “Wild Streak,” a ballad about a ramblin’ gal from a “two-bit town” who leaves home for fame and fortune in California; “Wanna Be Right,” containing advice for those in a relationship who always have to have the last word; “Wrong Turn,” the hard-driving tale of a ne’er-do-well who lives for himself for a while before he’s locked up for good, and “Yeah Man,” the most encouraging sing-along cover for a year that’s barely started. Even people who can’t sing can repeat that earworm title. Another surprise is “Lofi Roulette.” This instrumental is one part funk, one part jazz, one part techno, and one part blues. All magical, of course. As atmospheric as it is, it should have been the finale.

Soul Doctor is dynamic, daring, and delectable – food for one’s body, mind and spirit!

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 – 6 of 6 

imageCarolyn Gaines – The Thrill Is Gone

Polka Dot Records

12 songs – 39 minutes

The daughter of the legendary Texas guitarist/bandleader Roy Gaines, soul-blues vocalist Carolyn Gaines drew considerable international attention in 2018 with the release of her debut album, Beware of My Dog, and is backed here by an all-star band and serving up a disc of 12 of her favorite cover songs as her follow-up.

Born in Houston, but based out of Los Angeles for decades, where her dad worked in support of Diana Ross, Gladys Knight and Bobby “Blue” Bland in addition to fronting his own popular ensemble, Carolyn is an educator who founded the regional Blues Schools Program. She started managing her father’s career in the ‘90s and developed her craft as a vocalist by sitting in with other artists.

Gaines recorded three tunes under the supervision of Buddy Guy guitarist Ric “Ric Jaz” Hall in 2014 and then two more produced by Leon Levy and Chan Romero in 2015 after they discovered her when she performed with Romero at the West Coast Elvis Presley mansion in celebration of The King’s 80th birthday.

A smoky, powerful alto with a distinctive delivery that features “snarls, sneers, growls…all sung with a smile, Carolyn is backed here by the father-son team of uncle Grady Gaines Sr. – of Texas Upsetters fame – and cousin Grady Jr. on saxes, Ric Jaz and Gino Baronelli on guitars, Charles Sherman and Moe Bleek on keys and Glen Doll on harmonica with Dale Atkins and Paul Kennedy sitting in on upright bass on five of the 12 cuts.

The disc was rushed into production after being captured at Leon Hayward’s Sunnyside Studio in L.A., which closed a month later, and is a real blues oddity because it was recorded without the presence of a drummer. From the opening strains of Guy’s “Damn Right I Got the Blues,” you know you’re in for something different.

While the musicianship is unswervingly strong throughout, Gaines’ vocals are slightly nasal, and her notes slide and glide together in an approach that’s jazzy, but also quite annoying to this reviewer’s ear because her stylings are something akin to one-trick pony that plows on relentlessly from one cut to the next. And they’re constantly delivered in counterpoint to the musical charts, creating a sound that’s consistently dissonant throughout.

Ma Rainey’s “Deep Moanin’ Blues” are up next and follow suit before Otis Redding’s “I Got Dreams to Remember” offer up a bit of sweetness and respite. The separation from vocals and instrumentation comes through loud and clear in a jazzy take on Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child,” while Guy’s “Guess What” is a difficult listen.

The balance of the disc includes a run of over-recorded tunes that have seen better days, including Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” and “Red House,” Muddy Waters’ “I Got My Mojo Working,” Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind,” “Stormy Monday” — incorrectly attributed to Bland instead of T-Bone Walker, Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago” and B.B. King’s “The Thrill Is Gone.”

Available through CDBaby, Spotify and other outlets, this one’s a difficult listen at best.

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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The Great Northern Blues Society – Wausau, WI

To celebrate 21 years of the Blues Café, The Great Northern Blues Society will be starting things off for the weekend by hosting a 21st Anniversary ‘Kick-Off Party’, Friday, March 13th at the Rothschild Pavilion (near Wausau, WI). Doors will open at 5:30 pm, with Soul Symmetry getting things started at 6:30 and the Ever-popular Aaron Williams & the Hoo-Doo taking the stage at 8:30. Friday admission can be bought the night of the event for $10 and/or is included with all Saturday Blues Café tickets, which will be available to purchase at Friday’s event.

Saturday’s Blues Café lineup includes Boom Boom Stevie V. Band with Bruce McCabe on keyboard, at 1 pm, the Bel Airs at 3 pm, Venessa Collier at 5 pm, the John Nemeth Band at 7 pm, and the Ana Popovic Band at 9 pm. Doors will open at noon. We hope you can join us for a weekend of great music, and to celebrate 21 years of good times at the Blues Café. For more information, visit

Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaign, IL

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. Bands hosting upcoming Jams in 2020 include: Feb. 9, Mid-Town Blues Band Feb. 26, the Jack Whittle Band March 8 and Raw Sugar April 12. Bring your instrument and join in the fun. For more info visit:

Crossroads Blues Society – Rockford, IL

Crossroads Blues Society 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 Feb 8th – Mike Wheeler.

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.   Feb 3 – Timo Arthur, Feb 10 – William Marsala Band, Feb 17 – Bluesmattic, Feb 24 – Dave Lumsden wsg South Side Denny, Mar 2 – Dave Weld & the Imperial Flames, Mar 9 – Kirk Crandell, Mar 23 – Scott Ellison, Mar 30 – Tony Holiday.

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