Issue 14-7 February 13, 2020


Cover photo © 2020 Roman Sobus

 In This Issue 

Tee Watts has our feature interview with Chicago Bluesman Syl Johnson. We have 6 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Bai Kamara Jr. & The Voodoo Sniffers, Brody Buster’s One Man Band, Johnny Burgin, Myles Goodwyn, Joel Paterson and Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps.

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


 Featured Interview – Syl Johnson 

“Listen and you’ll get a good story” Syl Johnson admonished me when I interrupted him as he related his music career from the beginning. It was like we were on the bandstand and I was in the band and he was the bandleader about to issue me a fine. So bear with me so I don’t have to pawn my laptop. This is a loose transcription of our phone interview. – Tee Watts

imageBlues Blast: Tell us how the music grabbed you as a child. How did it start for you?

Syl Johnson: Do you know of Matt “Guitar” Murphy? He was my older brother, Jimmy’s friend. He had a guitar that he would leave with Jimmy sometimes. When he would go to the field, he would tell me, “Boy don’t touch that guitar when I go to the field.” Of course, when he’d go to the field, I’d pick up that guitar. That’s how I made my first licks. They called Matt, MT Murphy at the time. He and my brother were older boys. I was a little boy. But shit, when I saw how they played, I wanted to play too. I got that guitar and learned how to play a song called Fodder And Corn. That’s what my daddy called it.

BB: Your daddy was a musician too, hunh? Didn’t he play harmonica?

SJ: And guitar.

BB: So you moved from Holly Springs, Mississippi to the promised land Chicago when you were about ten?

SJ: You got that right. Except I was about twelve.

BB: Was it like culture shock to you? Was it way different? Can you describe it?

SJ: Oh man, yes sir! When I looked at the tall buildings, I thought they might fall on me. I liked it though. There were a lot of things to see. Bright lights, all that type of stuff.

BB: You became neighbors to Magic Sam?

SJ: We moved right next door to him.

BB: How was Magic Sam’s playing at the time compared to Matt “Guitar” Murphy.

SJ: Magic Sam couldn’t play that good at that time.

BB: In 1959, you recorded with Jimmy Reed. Do you recall anything about those sessions?

imageSJ: Well, we’d get paid for 3 sessions cuz that son of a gun had to get drunk. After while, he’d get drunk and hit the tune, You got me runnin’…) You know you could only spend so much time on a session. Three hours per session times three is 9 hours.

BB: So, how many songs would you try to cut in one session?

SJ: We’ try to cut at least four. Jimmy was a slow worker cuz he drank too much. He had to be drunk to start the groove.

BB: So you were playing second guitar behind Eddie Taylor?

S J: Eddie Taylor played lead and me and Jimmy Reed played rhythm.

BB: At that point, were you signed with Vee-Jay or working as a session musician?

SJ: I was a session musician. I signed my first record deal later that year. I was supposed to sign with Vee-Jay. Me and Phil Upchurch were in the studio with Jimmy Reed who was out lookin’ for whiskey. Upchurch and I were jammin’. I was singin’ a song I had played on the bandstand the night before. Vivian Carter, the owner of Vee-Jay opened up the mics so she could hear what was goin’ on. She told her brother, Calvin, “That young cat in there can sing. I’d like to record him.” Later, Calvin Carter pulled me aside and said, “My sister wants to make a record on you.”



“The guitar?”

“No, she wants you to sing.”

“I don’t sing. I just mess around sometimes.” So, he kept after me. He asked me several times. Finally, I said, “Man, what should I do?”

“Write a song and bring me a dub.” So I wrote a song and went into one of those little booths where you could make an acetate, that they had in those days.

I got on the bus intendin’ to take the dub to Vee-Jay, but the bus didn’t stop on Michigan and I ended up getting off on Wabash. I tried to take a shortcut at 13th and Wabash, tryin’ to get to Vee-Jay. But, as I passed by King Records, I said to myself, “Let me go in here. I walked in there and Ralph Bass said, “Boy, what you want?”

image“Is this a record company?”

“Yeah, this is a record company.”

“Well, I gotta dub.”

“Lemme listen to it.”

Damn, he took it into the back of the studio. I could see him through the glass. He’s noddin’ his head as if he likes it. He came back out and said, “Man, I like your record.”

I say, “Whoa yeah!”

He say, “Let me call my boss and let him listen to it.” He went in there and got his boss on the phone. I’m still watchin’ him as he played the record over the phone. He came back in and said, “Hey man, my boss loved it!”

I say, “Whoa yeah,” and asked him for my dub back.

He say, “No, we want to record you.”

“But, I’m supposed to go by Vee-Jay.”

“We’re bigger than Vee-Jay. We got James Brown, Little Willie John, and Hank Ballard & The Midnighters. You come back here Thursday. I’ll get the band together and we’ll be rehearsin’ your song for recording.”

When I went back on Thursday, they were rehearsin’ my shit. Lester Bates was on guitar and I think Gene Redd was the drummer. Long Gone Sonny Thompson was the producer. They were rehearsin’ my song Teardrops. I could hardly stand up I was so nervous. I said, “God damn, what is this?”

So the next day, I went to Universal Studios, studio A and cut it. It didn’t do nothin’ though. I went on down to Cincinnati to record some more for King. It was the first time I was ever on an airplane. Syd Nathan told me I would be around for a long time. He’d pick me up every morning at the hotel and take me to the studio. He taught me the record business, start to finish.

One day we were in there and Charles Brown came in to cut Merry Christmas Baby. When they came into the studio, you had to leave. Mr. Nathan would take me back to the hotel.

He took the time to show me the recording process. He said, “First we cut the lacquer master. Tomorrow, we’ll make the silver mother. I’ll show you.” So we dipped it overnight in a solution of stannous chloride. The next morning we took it out and dried it off. When the assembly line girls came they would take one side of the silver mother and clamp it facing down and the other side would be facing up. When she would hit that machine arm and bring it down like a slot machine motion, pressing it into the wax, creating the A and B side of the record. The next lady puts a sleeve on the record. The next lady puts the record in a box. Boom! Syd Nathan said, “UPS will come get it this evenin’. Tomorrow it will be at radio stations and distributors all over the country.”

BB: Did Vivian Carter and her brother ever say anything to you about the fact that they promised you a deal and you never showed up?

imageSJ: Yeah, but I told them I got a better deal. Calvin Carter told me his sister Vivian was very disappointed. I did go on to record with other people for Vee-Jay though.

BB: So did you go all over touring in support of your early records or stay in the Midwest?

SJ: I didn’t tour the country for myself. I kinda stayed in the Midwest since I didn’t have a hit. I got married when I was very young. I married Hazel when I was a teenager. She was from Mississippi. I was a city boy by then. I got a day job and started playin’ in a band. My wife didn’t want me in the band. She wanted me to work. So I had to work five days a week and play in the band five nights a week. A lot of people sample my music today as a result of all that hard work. The Wu-Tang Clan just called my daughter the other day trying to reach me about the music.

Anyway, I got a job as a truck driver and by 1 pm, I’d be through, in the truck sleep. A twenty-minute nap for me is like two hours of sleep. I’d take my truck back to the barn and go home and go to sleep again, cuz I gotta hit the gig at about 9 pm and work till 1 am through the week. I drank no whiskey.

BB: What places were you playin’?

SJ: I played all over Chicago. Sylvio’s, Mel’s Hideaway, The Checkerboard, The Burning Spear, The Just Me Lounge, Lonnie’s Skyway–I played Lonnie’s Skyway with Etta James. Also L.C. Cooke, Sam Cooke’s brother. L.C. told us in rehearsal that they were after his brother. That he needed to go see about him.

At Lonnie’s Skyway, the bandstand was behind the bar. We were playin’ the last set after L.C. had done his show. He came out of the dressin’ room, waved his hand at us, “Y’all take it easy. I’m goin’ out to California to see my brother. That was right about the time Sam was killed. I didn’t hardly play with L.C. no more after that.

Little Willie John’s band was also backing Jackie Wilson. At some point, they left Jackie and my band started backing him. This was in the ’60s. Jackie would frequently be late, but boy could he draw a crowd.

BB: Man look, when I was sixteen years old, I saw Jackie Wilson at what was then called the Oakland Auditorium. At some point during the set, girls in the audience lined up from the stage all the way to the rear of the auditorium. There must have been a hundred or more. Jackie Wilson kissed every girl in that line while the band riffed Stop Doggin’ Me Around. I’m not talkin’ ’bout your everyday peck on the cheek. I saw this with my own eyes. I couldn’t believe it, man! It really affected me.

SJ: Where were you at?

BB: Oakland, California

SJ: That was my band. Wasn’t no name to the band. We just traveled with Jackie. Women would get worked up. I saw a woman kiss another woman who had kissed Jackie. Once in Minnesota Jackie kissed a woman and her date got offended. He ran up and pushed Jackie in the back. Jackie spun around and knocked him out.

imageBB: I know he used to box. When did you start touring to promote your own material?

SJ: I didn’t tour promoting my own stuff until 1967 after Come On Sock It To Me was released.

BB: Was that about the time you got involved with Hi Records and Willie Mitchell?

SJ: No, this was before Willie Mitchell. Once I started making hits, Willie Mitchell came after me. Right about the time the Jefferson Airplane covered Different Strokes. The way Different Strokes came about was, we had recorded a track called Fox Hunting On The Weekend. My background singers were Fontella Bass, Minnie Riperton, and Jackie Ross. After we were done with that track, they were just sitting there. Then it hit me. The spirit moved me to record Different Strokes.

Baby you’re laughin’, but I’ll be around for a while, yeah, yeah, yeah


Can’t you dig it honey, by watchin’ my style now…


It was based on a true story. You see I was trying to make it with this cute little 19-year-old girl. A friend of mine since we were boys, the singer Garland Green, who made the R&B hit, Jealous Kind Of Fellow, gave me a Dexedrine tablet and told me, “Man, it will give you energy and you won’t get tired.”

I’m trying to make it with this girl and the Dexedrine made me impotent. I’m tryin’ to do this girl and I failed. I can remember the girl laughed me out of there. I was so embarrassed.

So bingo! When I was recording Different Strokes, I thought about it and decided to put in my grunt and Minnie Riperton’s laugh at the beginning of the track. I’d asked the background girls who could do the laugh and Minnie spoke up, “I’ll do it. I’ll do it.!”

BB: So are you saying that you wrote the song on impulse in the studio while the girls were sitting around.

SJ: No, no. You’re not listening. Let me tell you what happened. My saxophonist, John Cameron had written the lyrics. I never told John Cameron about what happened with the girl and the Dexedrine. I would’ve been too ashamed. The girl’s name was Odessa and she was very fine!

I just put my grunt followed by Minnie Riperton’s laugh at the beginning of the track, based on the real-life experience with the girl, Garland Green, and the Dexedrine. Lord, have mercy. The spirit made it click that way. That turned out to be the greatest song ever.

When the rappers heard that, they had to have it. Minnie Riperton’s voice was removed to keep her people from coming after me. So my sampled grunt is the biggest thing that ever happened in the music business. Write that down! Bigger than White Christmas by Bing Crosby. Michael Jackson used my music on two albums and only paid me for one. Shaquille O’Neal used it also on a rap as did the Beastie Boys, Kid Rock, and The Fine Young Cannibals. Kanye West and Jay Z won a Grammy sampling my music. We settled out of court. I’m suing Eric B and Rakim right now for using it in 2018.

Now, the song Sock It To Me was a hook I stole from Chuck Jackson. When we were playin’ behind Chuck Jackson, he’d come on stage and do a lyric that had that phrase in it. My saxophone player, Jesse Anderson appropriated it. Singer/songwriter Jo Armstead helped me write the lyrics.

BB: Is Jackie Ross still alive.

imageSJ: Yes. But Fontella Bass and Minnie Riperton have both passed on. At the time I worked with her, Minnie Riperton was using the name Andrea Davis. She was a secretary at Chess Records.

BB: Didn’t you do something for Chess too?

SJ: Yeah, with different artists. John Lee Hooker was one.

BB: How did the Chess Brothers treat you?

SJ: When they’d see me, they’d pay me for the session. They were good people, man. Through the Chess Brothers radio station WVON became one of the most powerful in the world.

BB: Tell us about the equipment you use.

SJ: I play a Gibson ES-336. I use a Fender Twin Reverb amp and I like the Marine Band Blues Harmonica.

BB: Are you still accepting bookings?

SJ: Yeah, But I don’t do as many gigs as I used to. My booking agent is Miki Mulvehill at Heart & Soul Artist Management.

That’s not the end of the Syl Johnson story. On 12/22/19, Blues Blast reviewed the book he authored which was published the same month. He is now working on Part II of the book, which is titled, “It’s Because They Were Black: 100 Years of Fraud and Forgery.

The Blues Foundation will induct Syl Johnson into the Blues Hall of Fame on May 6, 2020, along with Bettye Lavette, Eddie Boyd, Victoria Spivey, Billy Branch, and George “Harmonica” Smith. And though an official announcement won’t be made until late February, there is a possibility that Syl Johnson will be feted along with other survivors of The Chess Record Era when the City of Chicago and the Chicago Blues Fest celebrates the 70th Anniversary of the founding of Chess Records in June of this year.

CyberSoulMan Tee Watts is the former music director at KPFZ 88.1 fm in Lakeport, California. He is currently co-writing the memoirs of Lester Chambers of the Chambers Brothers.


 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6 

imageBai Kamara Jr. & The Voodoo Sniffers – Salone

Moosicus/MIG Music

15 songs – 50 minutes

The origins of the blues come through loud and clear on this CD, and it’s no wonder because guitarist/vocalist/songsmith Bai Kamara Jr. was born in West Africa, where it all began.

The son of a former ambassador, Kamara was born in Bo Town, Sierra Leone, grew up in the United Kingdom and has spent the better part of the past 25 years based out of Brussels, Belgium, where his father once served.

Deeply imbued with the polyrhythms of his native land, he started playing music while attending school in Manchester and Bath, England, where he fell under the spell of John Lee Hooker, Big Bill Broonzy and other American bluesmen. He’s enjoyed a successful career on the European soul/R&B circuit, releasing a handful of successful CDs since his debut release, the EP Lay Your Body, in 1996, but delivers a full plate of tunes rooted in the blues here.

The themes of corruption, abuse of power and the social injustice – all of which he witnessed in Africa and beyond — run like a river in the music he’s created previously. But this CD goes in another direction entirely. Using the Krio language word for his homeland, Salone, as its title, this work is literally a return to his roots, not surprising considering that he’s actively involved with Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders and other charities.

Kamara fronts a five-piece ensemble called The Voodoo Sniffers for this all-original set. The band’s composed of musicians from both sides of the Atlantic: American-born Tom Beardslee and Belgian Eric Moens handle guitar duties with Désiré Somé, who hails from Burkina Faso, on bass and Belgian Patrick Dorcean on percussion.

A rich baritone with a warm delivery, Bai will remind many listeners of Keb’ Mo’ – both for the quality of his vocals and for the intense rhythmic nature of the music he generates. Like Keb’, he digs a cadenced ditch from the jump, dives into it and drives relentlessly and pleasantly forward throughout, beginning with “Can’t Wait Here Too Long,” which finds Kamara standing at the crossroads in his life, knowing he has to move on, circular figures on the guitars building tension.

The theme continues in “Lady Boss,” a complaint about working overtime in a shop for a demanding a feminist who switches off between a suit and tie to high-heeled boots. The uneasy ballad “Black Widow Spider” recounts awakening from a dream to find an invader terrorizing his family in the kitchen before “Homecoming” celebrates a long-awaited return and revisiting the seeds planted long ago to see how they’ve grown.

The tempo picks up for the sprightly “Morning School Run Blues,” which finds Bai running late once again, while the polyrhythmic “Cold Cold Love” recounts the good times and feeling chilled to the bone but without any regrets long after a lady’s gone, a theme that continues in “The Rest of Everything,” which describes splitting belongings and the singer noting that all he needs is the bottle of wine, and “Cry Baby,” which finds the woman’s attitude change once the man’s handed her his keys.

The title for the next tune, “I Ain’t Lying (Can’t Give You What I Ain’t Got),” might seem like more of the same, but it’s a proud statement that Bai’s self-sufficient no matter the situation. A “natural-born hustler,” he’s a good provider with a train wreck for an ex. But, as the next number states: “Don’t Worry About Me” because he’s used to dealing with pain and suffering.

The mood changes considerably for the childhood remembrance, “Naked Girls on the Merry-Go-Round,” which weaves a lesson from Bai’s father with an observation about his brother. The pace quickens again for “Time Has Come” before the driving “Fortune” addresses lost love once more. “Riverboat Blues” reflects on regrets before the action closes with Kamara yearning for “Some Kind of Loving Tonight.”

Available through Amazon and other online retailers, Salone is hauntingly beautiful throughout — and strongly recommended. If you’re looking for something different, this is definitely it!

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 

imageBrody Buster’s One Man Band – Damn! I Spilled the Blues

VizzTone Label Group/Booga Music VT-BOOGA-01

10 songs 35 minutes

Former child prodigy Brody Buster teams with Kenny Neal to share promising new ground with this CD: It’s the first full-length offering from the Kansas City native since 2000, when he was in his mid-teens, and it’s the first release for Gulf Coast legend Kenny’s new Booga Music label.

A native of Kansas City, Brody grew up playing harmonica on Beale Street in Memphis, where he caught the attention of B.B. King, who invited him on stage and was so impressed with his talents that he called him “one of the greatest harmonica players of our time.”

Their relationship was so strong that Brody spent a great deal of his childhood entertaining Bluff City tourists from the stage at B.B. King’s. He became a frequent performer on national TV at age ten after someone from the Tonight Show discovered him when he played opening night at B.B.’s new club in Los Angeles.

Buster played the prestigious Montreux Blues and Jazz Festival in Switzerland at age 12 and released his first album as a harp player with a full band, Blue Devil, at age 16. He spent the balance of his childhood developing skills as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.

Brody burst on the scene again at the 2017 International Blues Challenge, where his new act as a one-man band – simultaneously playing harp, guitar and percussion on kick drum and snare – took the crowd by storm. He finished second in the solo-duo category, delivering high-energy blues with rock overtones, and he walked away with top harmonica player honors, too.

One of the judges in the audience that night was Neal, who immediately arranged to bring him to Baton Rouge, La., where he was launching both his Booga Music studio and label. Released in association with Boston-based VizzTone Label Group, this tasty, hard-driving album serves as their debut in the blues world.

The all-original set opens with “Old Hog Blues,” which comes across with an easy-going Delta feel as Brody boasts to a lady that he might be old, but he can still learn new tricks. His voice is both strong and rich and distinctive, his guitar skills are rock-steady and his harp runs are clean and sweet. Brody trades harp and guitar licks to open “Bad News,” an electric blues that announces he’s walking out on his lady after she’s been up for three days straight. His mid-tune harp solo cuts like a knife.

“2029,” a percussive Southern rocker, fires out of the gate after a short harp solo as Buster describes planning to leave the earth in style when the world ends – on Sept. 23, 2029 before he advises his lady to walk away because things haven’t changed in “The Wind.” It’s a lyrics-heavy number full of angst. The troubles continue in “The Reason” – with the singer losing his job, getting a ticket, losing his license and much more – but his attitude remains positive.

Brody’s guitar skills come to the fore for a few bars in “Alligator Blues,” which blazes out of the gate before settling into a steady rhythm pattern. A funky old-school rocker, Buster has the 14-ft. amphibian’s head hanging above his bed, and he’s wearing its hide and pretty well fed.

“Like ’em Like That” follows and carries on the old blues tradition of describing in detail the different types of women the singer likes before “The Hustle (Just Fine When I’m Gone)” describes the highs and lows of living on the road and returning home to find changes there and in his lady, too. The hard-driving “Week Long” describes needing one more drink after a long night out before heading off to work before the straight-ahead “This Time I Got the Blues” brings the disc to a close.

Brody Buster is a one-man band like no other. His simultaneous attack on multiple instruments delivers consistently on all counts throughout. Pick this one up. It’s different – and a whole lot of fun.

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 

imageJohnny Burgin – Live

Delmark Records – 2019

14 tracks; 69 minutes

Live albums tend to follow a tried and tested formula: start with a familiar number, put in some tracks to promote the latest album and conclude with the fan favourites everyone wants to hear. Johnny Burgin had other ideas though when he contemplated his first live album in twenty years – he went for an album of new songs and there are just four covers here, two of which are part of the guests’ slots. It’s a risky approach but Johnny was confident that his regular rhythm section and Northern Californian friends would cope and the evidence is here for us to hear! Johnny is on guitar and vocals with Chris Matheos on bass and Steve Dougherty on drums, plus Kid Andersen on guitar and piano,; special guests Charlie Musselwhite (harp on three cuts), Aki Kumar (harp on two and percussion on two), Nancy Wright (sax on five) and Rae Gordon (vocals on four) up the ante on a total of nine tracks.

The opening four songs are all new originals with Aki lending his harp to the swinging opener “You Got To Make A Change” with lyrics about the girl who can’t stop drinking, both Johnny and Kid on guitar and a solid start to the show. “Can’t Make It Blues” is a classic slow blues with despairing lyrics and “She Gave Me The Slip” is a gently funky tune with a touch of Little Feat to it courtesy of the infectious rhythm work and some ferocious soloing. Johnny opts for the core trio on “You’re My Trinket” and his guitar rings out over the rhythm section’s steady shuffle beat, another good cut.

Aki returns to the bandstand for a great run through Earl Hooker’s “The Leading Brand”, the first cover of the show and, naturally, it also provides a vehicle for both guitarists. Popular West Coast singer Rae Gordon then joins in on four songs: first up is Robert Junior Lockwood’s “I Got To Find Me A Woman”, as Johnny and Rae share the vocals, Rae’s deeper voice a good contrast with Johnny’s lighter tone and Nancy adding a striking sax solo; “Late Night Date Night” is a co-write between Johnny and Rae with Kid shifting to piano, Johnny pulling out a great solo and Rae on great form on the vocals as she describes how working musicians only see their loved ones after they finish playing – a good song and a fine performance. Another new song by Johnny finds Rae claiming that “You Took The Bait” with Nancy’s rasping sax to the fore and Rae concludes her mini-set with “Daddy’s Got The Personal Touch” which Johnny wrote with Wes Race, Johnny taking the lead with Rae on harmony vocals.

“Louisiana Walk” is an instrumental originally on the B-side of a 1959 Phillip Walker single and written by his then pianist Pauline ‘Lindy Lou’ Adams; it’s an excellent track with Nancy’s sax beefing up the tune as Johnny and Kid play some great stuff. Johnny then introduces Charlie Musselwhite who plays in his distictive style on three tunes: “Blues Falling” is a Jimmy Rogers tune that is played at a breakneck pace; Johnny’s “California Blues” recounts his move from Chicago to the West Coast and starts out as a slow, reflective piece that morphs into a pounding Chicago blues with Kid back on the piano and Charlie really enjoying himself with a lung-busting solo half way through; “When The Bluesman Comes To Town” slows the pace for a longer track on which Charlie plays expressively. “Jody’s Jazz” references Jody Williams’ classic riff on “Lucky Lou” in a jazzy tune with Nancy’s sax again a key feature, making a fine close to the disc.

Johnny may have dropped the ‘Rockin’’ prefix for this release but the album definitely is rocking! A brave project has reaped its due rewards and this is one to watch out for on lists of live albums of the year.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.


 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 6 

imageMyles Goodwyn – Friends of the Blues 2

Linus Entertainment/Government of Canada

CD: 14 Songs, 43 Minutes

Styles: Soul-Influenced Blues, Ensemble Blues

Blues artists have not only have their signature style of music, but their signature aura as well. The aura of Myles Goodwyn can be distilled in one word: “neighborly.” His voice is so familiar among his native Canadians as to be immediately recognizable. The leading man of multi-selling platinum rock band April Wine returns to his first love – the blues – on this fantastic follow-up to his JUNO-nominated and East Coast Music Award-winning debut in the genre. Friends of the Blues 2 presents thirteen original soul-infused ensemble tracks and one funky cover, “All Over Now” by Bobby Womack. When he sings, Goodwyn sounds like the guy next door that you can always count on, whether in an emergency or for a boisterous barbecue. He doesn’t try anything fancy: no vibrato, crooning, or anything that draws attention away from the instrumentation. Speaking of which, it’s provided by an extensive list of co-musicians. On harmonica to horns to good old guitar, the Friends of the Blues make a tremendous splash.

Goodwyn grew up poor and is the classic “small-town kid makes good” success story. As a young teenager, he honed his skills playing in cover bands and began writing original material as soon as he could play the guitar. One of April Wine’s biggest hits, “You Won’t Dance With Me,” was written while he was still a teen. Myles and the other members of April Wine were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2010. He also received the prestigious East Coast Music Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008, and the SOCAN National Achievement Award in 2002. He’s also written two books: Just Between You and Me and Elvis and Tiger.

Myles (on all lead vocals, guitars and keyboards) is backed by drummers JR Smith, Scott Ferguson, Mike Carrol, and Blair Mackay. Bass players are Bruce Dixon and Richard Pallus. Background vocals are provided by Reeny Smith and Lisa MacDougall. “Featured Friends” are a who’s who of the Canadian blues music scene, including Jack de Keyzer, Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne, Warren Robert, Ross Billard, and several more. For the full list, check the liner notes.

Starting things off is “Hip Hip,” an easygoing boogie with powerhouse piano by Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne. Reminiscent of Delbert McClinton and Bruce Hornsby, it features top-notch melody and a convivial atmosphere. “You Got It Bad” is this CD’s first memorable slow number, starring Shrimp Daddy on harmonica, John Campbelljohn on slide guitar, John Main on piano and Ross Billard on organ. “When you said one of us has to go, I didn’t scream or shout. I said ‘I know,’” says the narrator of this song, not so much resigned to his fate as accepting of it. The intro to “Speedo Revisited” adds an old-fashioned touch from the early days of radio. Ms. Wetnight wishes the whole song would have continued in this vein, but it’s nonetheless great. Further down the line are sock-hop-style “Help Me Baby” (dance or die) and the finale, “Even Singing Cowboys Get the Blues.” It’s a tip of the ten-gallon hat to Jimmie Rodgers, yodeling included. It’s so good-natured and gutsy that it could have been the opener.

Friends of the Blues 2 is a dynamite collaboration by Myles Goodwyn and Canada’s superstars!

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 

imageJoel Paterson – Let It Be Guitar!

Ventrella Records

CD: 16 Songs, 43 Minutes

Styles: Spectacular Beatles Covers, Instrumentals

Google time! Do a search for “most covered band of all time.” It’s no surprise the top honor goes to four lads from Liverpool: John, Paul, George and Ringo. According to, the Beatles beat out their nearest competitors – Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, and Frank Sinatra – by an astounding margin. Second place goes to “Traditional Folk,” which is a genre instead of an individual artist. That goes to show you how perennially popular the Beatles are, and how time-honored. Maverick Chicago guitarist Joel Paterson pays homage to them on his latest,Let it Be Guitar! Joel Paterson Plays the Beatles. It features sixteen spectacular covers, several of them lesser-known Beatles offerings. For sure, there’s “Drive My Car,” “From Me To You” and “Can’t Buy Me Love,” but how long has it been since you’ve heard “Michelle,” “Things We Said Today,” or “No Reply?” Therein lies one of the chief delights of this CD. A second one?

Joel Paterson’s guitar might as well be a living being of flesh and blood. It converses with you: chatting, chuckling, moaning, gently weeping. It tells stories within songs, causing listeners to imagine what might have been going on inside the Beatles’ heads as they composed 237 of them, as listed on Wikipedia. Joel’s instrument of choice is a mentor and boon companion, not just a vehicle for victory. Another of Paterson’s gifts is presenting all of his material, whether old or new, in a refreshing manner. His music possesses a definite 1950s surfer vibe updated for a new decade of the 21st century. He even makes the head-scratcher “Her Majesty” sound great (is the final note missing? No, as it turns out). No matter how many Beatles releases you own, or how many albums containing their covers by blues artists, this one’s absolutely unmissable.

Joining Joel (guitars, pedal steel, lap steel, tic-tac bass) are Beau Sample on upright bass; Alex Hall on drums, percussion, vibes organ and piano for “No Reply”, and Chris Foreman on Hammond B3 organ for “From Me to You,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and “Drive My Car.”

All the tracks here are terrific, but yours truly would like to draw special attention to two of them: “Things We Said Today,” number eight, and “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party,” number ten. First of all, why didn’t these two songs hit #1? Second of all, Paterson’s versions should. “Things We Said Today” contains fabulous fretwork and wonderfully-weird echo effects. “Party” is so country-catchy that it might as well be an offering by Tim McGraw, not Paul McCartney et al. Both selections have superior melody, tonal quality, and earworm potential.

In the mood for a fresh take on the Fab Four? Pop this in your stereo and Let It Be Guitar!

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.

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6 

imageTeresa James & The Rhythm Tramps – Live!

Jesi-lu Records

13 songs time – 53:26

Houston born now California based Teresa James and her deeply soulful pipes and keyboards takes different variations of her band through their paces at one of their favorite California venues Bogie’s. Their sound is deeply rooted in rhythm & blues, boogie-woogie and a smidgen of blues, all driven by a first rate horn section. Her voice has some of the roughness of Janis Joplin’s, but it is more controlled. The songs range from smoking rhythm & blues workouts to soul stirring ballads.

“In The Pink” gets things off on the good foot as Teresa expounds on the healing powers of the blues. She leads the band through The Five Royals’ jump boogie “I Like It Like That” with her barrelhouse piano. “Put The Squeeze On Me” and “Don’t Make A Habit Of It” are both ballads with the former being more intense. Another ballad “Forgetting You” tenderly tugs at the heart strings with the yearning vocal delivery. “Easier Said Than Done” is a tight and smooth slice of R&B.

Guitarist Billy Watts steps up to the plate for a fiery duet on Etta James’ “If I Can’t Have You”. Watts also contributes a stinging guitar solo. They turn in a worthy version of Allen Toussaint’s funky “Shoorah Shoorah” allowing Teresa to show off her piano skills. Billy Watts adds his blues guitar to the tale of the passing of Gregg Allman “The Day The Blues Came To Call”.

The percussion driven piano romp of the Tex-Mex inflected “I Want It All” is infectious as all get out. Teresa ends with what is virtually the theme song for the band, the roadhouse rocker “Long Way From Texas”. This the only song where the horn players sit out. The guitar takes up the slack as the band rocks on out.

Solid horn driven R&B with a full throated songstress performing well crafted songs, what’s not to like? Every instrument fits perfectly into the groove to carry a seamless sound. Teresa’s hearty vocals and boogying piano take you right back to Texas even if you’ve never been there.

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


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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 has announced their 3rd Annual Blues Fest will be held Saturday August 8. Watch our website and Facebook page for lineups and other information coming soon.

PCBS 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. 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.
Hope and Anchor in Loves Park, IL 2nd Saturday every month, 8 PM, $5 Cover: March 1 4- Kilborn Alley Blues Band, April 11 – Cash Box Kings,
Lyran Society in Rockford, IL 1st and 3rd Fridays, 7 PM, No Cover: February 21 – Don Collins & the Night Shift, March 6 – Ivy Ford, March 20 Jonny T-Bird & the MPs

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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