Issue 14-9 February 27, 2020

Cover photo © 2020 Bob Kieser


 In This Issue 

Mark Thompson has our feature interview with Mississippi Heat’s band leader and harmonica player Pierre Lacocque. We have 10 Blues reviews for you this week including a compilation album of 50 Years of Como MS Blues and new music by Phantom Blues Band, The Jimmys, Jörg Danielsen, Junior Watson, Michael Lane, Vaneese Thomas, Ghost Town Blues Band, Hudspeth & Taylor and Moonshine Society.

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


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 Featured Interview – Pierre Lacocque 

imageWith their 30th anniversary coming up soon, there is no question that Mississippi Heat deserves continuing recognition for bringing new and inventive twists on the Chicago blues tradition. Over the years, some of the city’s finest musicians have been a part of the band’s legacy, including Carl Weathersby, Billy Flynn, and the late James Wheeler on guitar, Bob Stroger and Calvin “Fuzz” Jones on bass, and the late Barrelhouse Chuck Goering on piano. While the line-up has been fluid, it has never affected the band’s devotion to the music that grew out of the Mississippi Delta, then moved north and got electrified in the ’50s decade in clubs throughout Chicago.

The one constant for the band is the leader and harmonica player, Pierre Lacocque. He has dealt with all of the issues – finding musicians who can work together, booking shows to keep the band gainfully employed, handling all of the details for tours, arranging for recording sessions and, more importantly, securing financing for each of the twelve albums in Mississippi Heat’s catalog. As he will readily tell you, some things have not changed over time. “Inetta Visor, our lead singer for eighteen years, almost died. It left us shocked and very shaken. Out of necessity, I started looking for another vocalist. We tried a number of people, with Carla Denise Stinson being one of them. She is a wonderful singer that had a lot of promise. But her time and availability became a factor, picking and choosing dates, that it became too difficult. I was hoping we could work it out. While we are on fantastic terms, it got hard because she didn’t want to travel by van, wanted to fly in for shows”.

“We had other people “apply” who were strong singers. But they came with long lists of conditions as well. We are very democratic in the band. As a bandleader for thirty years, I can say that is the truth. I put the band first, in more ways than one, including financially. The spirit of Mississippi Heat is that we are a team, a family. I literally try to let the members know that they come first. If we get a gig offer that includes doubling up for hotel rooms, I will certainly take the offer, but I won’t do double in the rooms. I will take funds from my “Mississippi Heat savings account,” money that I set aside, to provide comfort for the band. People can say whatever they want about me. But no one can say that I don’t bend, lovingly and respectfully, towards my band members”. The validity of that approach is reflected in the length of tenure for the current band members. Guitarist Michael Dotson, bass player Brian Quinn, and drummer Terrence Williams are all in their eighth year, while Visor had reached eighteen years as a member.

The search for a new singer may have finally come to an end. “My dear friend, Jon McDonald, who played guitar with Magic Slim & the Teardrops, helped me co-found Mississippi Heat thirty years ago. He recommended Erica RicaJean Korak, who is very interested in the band. She will be featured on some tracks on our new album. We are giving it a shot to see where it leads us. With her, it is beyond the tryout stage, and everyone is hoping that it will work. Things are looking good, but we have not made the final decision”.

The new album, the thirteenth in the band’s history, will take the band with in new directions. “The record was done in Chicago at VSOP Studios, a state-of-the-art facility. My co-producer, Michael Freeman, took me around to several studios, then told me this is the one, if you can make it work. Michael has co-produced five or six of the band’s previous projects. We have known each other for a long time. He has a great ear, which is why he has such an amazing recording history. I trust him completely and we work extremely well as a team”.

image“For guest stars, Lurrie Bell will be back with us on guitar for the third time. Everybody loves Lurrie! He did such stellar work that I think people are going to be surprised. Michael helped a lot in getting Lurrie’s guitar sound just right. Terrence Williams is on drums on many tunes, but Kenny Smith is back on several as well. Kenny is family to me. We are very close beyond the stage. When he was shopping for a home, he almost bought one a few houses from mine. There is something about Kenny’s drumming, it has that vintage quality. And we have Sax Gordon, who I adore. He has traveled with us on occasion, but his schedule is always full. It is so hard because he is such a busy man. He did the horn arrangements for the record. I selected a few songs for him to shine solo-wise, because I have to!”

“There will also be latin percussion in spots, plus a couple of songs with a New Orleans feel. I also wrote a reggae tune. My wife, Vickie, is from Cuba. Before President Trump took over, we were able to visit the country. It was the first time for me. I was moved, moved, moved by the people, by what I saw, the kindness of the Cuban people. We traveled the whole country. There was something blues related going on in Havana, but I was unable to connect with anyone involved. I wrote a song about her people called “Havana”. I am very attracted to rumbas and other Latin rhythms for the edge they have. For whatever reason, reggae came to me. So I am going to bring in Ruben Alvarez, who has worked with artists like John Mayall and Ramsey Lewis, to add percussion. He has been on several of our previous recordings”.

“I tend to be faithful with people, as my friends tell me, sometimes to a fault. With Inetta, there have been some musical issues. The main one is that she was heading strongly towards music in a rhythm & blues vein, which has way less of an appeal for me. Not that it isn’t beautiful, as it is attractive musically and vocally, but it does not move me in the way the blue notes do. It is a matter of taste. So there was a split. I am more of a Chicago guy. The 1950s are my golden era. Little Walter and Big Walter Horton are my masters to this day. And other players like Kim Wilson and Dennis Gruenling are the top, the best in the world. They all inspire me. I invited Inetta to record four tracks, some of which she wrote. I plan to pull her in for a fifth track, an overdub on a song our guitarist, Michael Dotson, wrote. He is very creative, very smart, and writes beautiful songs”.

Another development involves the decision to self-release the new project. The band’s last six projects were issued by Delmark Records, one of the preeminent blues labels in the world. “Delmark is home. We have always felt welcome there. When Bob Koester sold the label to the new owners, Julia A. Miller and Elbio Barilari, I had a CD ready to go. With the transition after the sale, it was a bit hard to get my bearings. I have good relations with both of them, but the wait took so long that I ended up with two CDs ready to go. I have been saving and investing some of my money in advertising in addition to what Delmark did, and to compensate our special guests. Our relationship with Delmark was mutually beneficial, so I had no intention of doing anything without them. Out of necessity and timing, I decided to do this one on my own. It is not a divorce, as I may go back to Delmark in the future”.

When asked about other aspects of releasing an album on his own, the leader made it clear that he had thought through this decision at a time when the market is flooded with releases. “Artists like Charlie Musselwhite and John Mayall have been successful with this approach. I don’t think they do that by chance. The ownership of my songs is certainly important. If something positive happens to one of my songs, the rewards go straight to my family. How many albums can I do on my own – I don’t know. The blessing is that I have a strong support system beyond my family, doors I can knock on for help within the industry. I will mention in passing that something huge happened recently that could open up a path for me with our recordings”.

“The new album is a gift to my wife, to my children, and our grandchildren. So I own this album totally. This project may be a bridge to something bigger. Would I be less happy doing it through Delmark? No, because the songs are still my songs, I wrote them. I share the writing with Michael Dotson,. That is part of our democratic approach. What appeals to me about songwriter is the creative challenge of taking something from chaos to meaning, creating something from the amazing blues culture and history that we have at our disposal. What is always influential to me are artists like Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, and Jimmy Rogers. I try to build from that.

IMAGE“I am a melody guy, love melodies. My joy does not come from playing note for note what other people have done. I did that in the beginning, learning every note of a Big Walter solo, or learning Little Walter’s parts on “Walking By Myself”. That is the vocabulary, the alphabet. Many people I hear don’t have an alphabet. Three chords ain’t going to do it. You can’t avoid an understanding of the culture. In spite of all the headaches of being a band leader, the music gives me the drive, a passion that sustains me”.

In the early days of Mississippi Heat, Lacocque felt like a sideman in his own band. Working with musicians like Weathersby and Deitra Farr, it is easy to understand those feelings, surrounded by musicians who were band leaders in their own right. “Over the years, as I became more confident and experienced, I finally reached the point where I had to decide if it was worth it to me to have world-class musicians in the band who are difficult to get along with. And the answer is, no! When you combine the jaw-dropping highs of the music with difficult personalities, to me that evens out to average. I am very clear that it ain’t worth it. Being away from home a lot is the price to pay for this life, so I want to be with people I like, because morale can go south very quickly. It is a privilege to make a living playing music, if you can make it happen. There are many obstacles and the competition is very high. Try to get along the best you can because none of us need enemies. Who needs the poison of people talking against you? “

Lacocque values the spiritual nature of music, beyond the sex, heartache, and pain that form the basis of the music. “I am the son of a minister. My father is a theologian, and we were raised with a Judeo-Christian values. My grandfather founded the church in Belgium and I was born in Israel. The music is about life, and it is religious to me. But the price is high. It means a lot to me when Vickie is with me when people say hello or give me compliments. I want her to receive those, as she provides the balance in my life, allowing me to be gone all of those nights”.

For equipment, he is an endorsee of Sonny Jr. Harp amplifiers. “They are built by Gary Onofrio, boutique amps built for harmonica players. I use the Avenger model. Gary uses a variety of speakers within the same amp. There is a 12 inch, a ten inch, and two eight inch speakers, each with different tonalities, which he blends together. There is a line out connection that allows me to connect the amp to an external speaker or the PA system. That means that you can translate the warmth of the amp through the speakers. The amp doesn’t get real loud, so I have an external powered speaker that I carry with me to gigs. That gives me the sound I need to lead the band and I am not drowned out. It also means that I can get the sound that I want no matter what the sound person is doing with the mix. For the microphone, I use a Astatic shell with a Shure Controlled Magnetic element”.

“As far as harmonicas, I started out with the Hohner Marine Band. Now I use the Hohner Golden Melody model. But there is a history to that. Many years ago, I had very little luck with the Marine Bands. The manufacturing was off, the reeds did not respond. Now you buy one and it is ready to go. Years ago, a friend of mine, John Bruno, told me to try a Golden Melody. It took about three weeks to get adjusted to it. Now, I order one, they are very expensive, and it gets to my house in pristine shape, from hole #1 to hole #10. The Marine Band is a little dirtier, but I am a melody guy, so pristine is what I want. You pay a price soundwise, but playing through the Sonny Jr. allows me to still get that vintage sound. The response on the Golden Melody is ridiculous, at least for me. I can get to the high notes, to blow and draw a note. My playing improved by at least 40-50% after that”.

image“Part of my sound is inspired by Little Walter, the echo that he had on some recordings. Someone like Kim Wilson likes the purity of the harmonica’s sound. He doesn’t need any help because he is fantastic! I love reverb and echo together. That is where I differ from many other harp players. The sound I like is the harmony between the two, when the echo lifts the reverb. When I want more of an organ sound, I use a pedal. I play the harp like a horn. When I am playing in a supportive fashion, I can make chords, play octaves that have that horn sound. My joy is the harmony, especially when the band is playing as an ensemble, where everyone is heard for their contributions. I don’t like it when you stick the lead instrument out front and that is it. I’m not like that”.

“I happen to be highly attracted to what few people do harmonica-wise, which is the natural minor. In blues, you have the blue notes. You have major and minor scales. What makes me cry is the minor, the blue note. I have to be in it, to feel the music. The blue notes drives me off the wall, so I do a lot minor keys, which has what is referred to as the flattened third on the higher and lower range. That opens doors for me. Lee Oskar, formerly of War, is a very melodic harp player who plays in minor keys. Some people compare me with him, but there is no history where I have studied his style. One thing I will share with you is that this music is an art where the expression of it allows you to cry. I don’t have to hide it. I can cry my tears and be accepted”.

“The harmonica master, Toots Thielemans, who was from Belgium, had a famous quote that music is between the tear and the laughter. I couldn’t play music when I was younger the same way I do now. I had too many emotions to work on, leaving me overwhelmed, which is great if you have confidence that you can recover. At the time, I did not. I could not maneuver between the tear and the recovery. There was a long period where I did not play at all because it drove me to the dark emotions that I couldn’t get out of. It was not a matter of drinking too much. It was a more of an existential thing – who am I, what is the purpose of life. That lasted about eight years. When I came back to the harmonica, it was with a different perspective. I became more me, and things started working out better”.

Being a bandleader gives Lacocque a different perspective on the current state of the blues community. “I could go from zero to one hundred in terms of opposite comments to make. First, in Europe, Scandinavia, Japan, and other places I have heard a lot of bands that blow me away! They know the culture, have learned the alphabet, the respect for that, and the tonality, the creativity. Then I hear a lot of bands, that from my point of view, absolutely do not get it. Some people play all over the harp, filling every space with a flurry of notes. That can impress me on one level. But I want to be moved. Some people play the music without understanding the element of suffering. That is what attracts people like you and I, from different different countries and cultures, moved by the universal element in the music. You have to respect the roots. And the roots are not joyful. The soul comes from the African-American community, expressing things that they can’t do in words. Words can only go so far. Ultimately, the blues is an expression of the truth that truly speaks to me.”

Visit Mississippi Heat’s website at:https://mississippiheat.net

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 10 

IMAGEPhantom Blues Band – Still Cookin’

VizzTone Label Group VTP-002

12 songs – 49 minutes

www.phantombluesband.com

Based out of Southern California, Phantom Blues Band has come a long way since Taj Mahal assembled its members to back him for his Dancin’ the Blues album in 1993. Composed of several of the top sessions players on the West Coast, they’ve served as his large touring ensemble ever since. But after winning two Grammy Awards behind Taj, this group simply was too good to keep in the shadows.

They’ve been a major draw at concerts and festivals around the globe since cutting their debut album – a highly prized, limited-release CD under their new name – in 2003, and their roster has walked away from the Blues Music Awards podium with more trophies than one man could hold.

Phantom smokes from the jump of the opening bars of Still Cookin’, their second mainstream release on VizzTone after two previous CDs on Delta Groove, delivering a mix of easy-greasy, blues-drenched R&B that ranges from Texas roadhouse hot to Memphis soul smooth with a taste of reggae to spice things up. The self-produced CD was recorded by the band’s guitarist, Johnny Lee Schell, at his Ultratone Studio in Studio City, Calif. A native Texan, Schell learned his skills alongside Norman Petty, the man responsible for producing Buddy Holly.

The all-star, six-piece lineup includes several of the most familiar faces in the industry, including percussionist Tony Braunagel — who’s toured regularly with Eric Burdon, Rickie Lee Jones and Bette Midler, and keyboard player Mike Finnigan – whose credits include work with Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker, Etta James and a host of others. Both men currently back Phantom, Taj and Bonnie Raitt, too.

Houston native bassist Larry Fulcher began his musical career in the church before recording with Smokey Robinson and The Crusaders. A gifted keyboard player and guitarist, too, he spent years in Jamaica with Peter Tosh, Third World and The Wailers, and he’s a member of Ruthie Foster’s band, too. Holding down the horns are Joe Sublett (Stevie Ray Vaughan, Fabulous Thunderbirds) on sax and Les Lovitt (Herbie Hancock, Glenn Frye) on trumpet.

Augmenting the sound of seven originals and five covers are honorary bandmate Darrell Leonard (trumpet), Jeff Paris (piano) and Maxayn Lewis (backing vocals) and Lenny Castro (percussion). Lead vocals are shared among Larry, Johnny and Mike throughout.

Steve Cropper and Wilson Pickett’s “Don’t Fight It” opens the action. A steady shuffle first recorded in 1965, it’ll have you sliding to the dance floor as the trio urge you to feel the groove. The Paris penned “Stop Runnin’” features Fulcher. It’s a Southern soul pleaser that finds the singer awakening and rushing downstairs as his lady’s set to leave for the final time. Schell’s at the mike for “Wingin’ My Way,” which has a Delta feel. It describes a man who’s new to Hollywood with his eyes set on stardom.

One of the most soulful voices on the planet, Finnigan’s in charge for the percussive “Just in Case,” which assures a loved one that he’ll never miss a beat as he hits the road to keep a roof over her head, and the unhurried ballad, “Blues How They Linger,” one of two tunes in the set penned by David Egan. The action heats up immediately for the medium-fast, reggae-flavored “Shine On” with Larry joining to share the mike.

“Better But Not Good” comes across with a Big Easy feel before the entire ensemble serve as a choir on the break for “Tequila Con Yerba,” an instrumental that will definitely have folks in Mexico City and Latin America cutting a rug. The band serve up a warning in “Bad Blood,” which advises against burning their cattle in the field or messing with their fish pond because there’s nowhere to hide.

The Memphis-flavored “Fess on Up,” another Egan creation, urges listeners to tell the truth to their baby because they need some “inside help” before a cover of Buddy Johnson’s 1953 R&B hit, “I’m Just Your Fool” and the Sublett-penned ballad “I Was Blind” bring the album to an introspective close.

No matter what they call themselves, other groups may be their equal, but there’s no band better in the world today that Phantom. Pick this one up. Believe me, you won’t be sorry. And don’t forget to tell your friends!

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 10 

IMAGEThe Jimmys – Gotta Have It

Brown Cow Productions BCP 006

13 songs – 51 minutes

www.thejimmys.net

Fronted by keyboard player Jimmy Voegeli and guitarist Perry Weber, The Jimmys are one smoking horn band who’ve been taking the chill off cold Wisconsin nights and spreading joy around the world for the better part of the past two decades, delivering their own brand of blues-rich R&B. They consistently deliver standout performances wherever they appear, but reach new heights on this album, which features Gulf Coast legend Marcia Ball in the lineup.

Based south of Madison a short drive north of the Cheddar Curtain separating the Badger State from Illinois, The Jimmys have about as much fun as the law allows on stage, something that comes through loud and clear in the digital grooves of Gotta Have It. The disc was recorded at Makin’ Sausage Studio in Milwaukee and produced by Braunagel, an 11-time nominee for Blues Music Awards percussionist of the year.

Voegeli – a triple threat on piano, Hammond B-3 organ and clavinet – and Weber – who spent years living and playing with Howlin’ Wolf guitarist Hubert Sumlin – share vocals throughout backed by an eight-piece unit that consistently shows that they’re a hard-drinking party band, something that comes into clear focus when you see Jose Cuervo tequila, the folks at New Glarus Brewing Company and a local liquor store all thanked in the liner notes.

The six-piece horn section includes Peterson Ross (sax) and Mike Bowman (trumpet), both of whom worked in support of Clyde Stubblefield, James Brown’s original funky drummer, for years. They’re augmented by Kevan Feyzi and Kyle Samuelson on trombone, Kurt Shipe on trumpet and Al Falaschi on baritone sax.

John Wartenweiler doubles on electric and upright bass and teams with Braunagel, who sits in for regular drummer Chris Sandoval on the bottom, with Wally Ingram providing additional percussion. Ball shares lead vocals on one cut and provides additional backing, joined by Melodye Perry and Mike Finnigan, Tony’s longtime running mate with Taj Mahal, Bonnie Raitt and Phantom Blues Band.

Voegeli penned seven and Weber four of the 13 tracks here, augmented with one cover by Grammy winners Gary Nicholson and Kevin McKendree and another written from Jim Liban, the revered blues harp player from Milwaukee.

“Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” charges out of the gate as Weber warns that his lady has a “mean streak a mile long.” Brief solos throughout show that these guys mean business. The funky, stop-time pleaser, “Grim Reaper,” finds Voegeli wondering about an afterlife and promising he won’t give up the ghost without a fight as he expresses no fear about a little sin and that he’s ready to demand that St. Peter let him in.

The must-listen “Write a Hit” is up next. Co-written by Jimmy, Marcia and Tony, it’s a duet delivered at the end of a relationship. Voegeli and Ball trade verses that describe the lady taking the house, the dog and all his money, leaving him only with his clothes and new Cadillac. She ends up telling him he needs to write a hit song because: “I didn’t blow it, Jack!” Jimmy’s keyboards shine throughout.

The horns chug steadily on “She Gotta Have It,” which describes a gal with expensive tastes, before “Started Up Again,” which has a swamp-blues feel, finds trouble brewing in the relationship again. The rocking “Hotel Stebbins” promises the band will be partying the night away in room 11 after the gig tonight. Weber’s straight-ahead shuffle notes that “Drinkin’” gets him in trouble every time before Voegeli’s back in charge, delivering advice from his father: that “When You Got Love,” treat your gal right because “she’ll love you ‘til your dying day.”

A cover of the Nicholson-McKendree Billy Joel hit, “Always a Woman,” follows before the cautionary “Words and Actions” delivers more relationship advice. Liban’s slow blues, “Someday Baby,” gives Weber space to shine on six-string before the percussive “Take You Back” and “Jose,” an instrumental fiesta celebrating tequila, bring the action to a close.

If you like horn bands, you’ll love this one. The Jimmys are one of the top bands anywhere. Available through most major online retailers or direct from the band (address above), this one’s going on my short list for prospective best albums of the year.

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


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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 10 

imageVarious Artists – 50 Years of Como MS Blues

Wolf Records International

www.wolfrec.com

19 tracks

Como is a small town of about 1,300 people in Panola County, Mississippi. It borders on the Mississippi Delta in the northern part of the state, and is the proverbial “hill country” which has given rise to so much interesting blues music. Como is one of only a few places on the Mississippi Blues Trail with three Blues Trail Markers. They honor Mississippi Fred McDowell, Napolian Strickland, and Otha Turner and line their main street. This album highlights 50 years of music from this extraordinary place and it’s distinctive hill country sound.

What we have here are a half dozen tracks by the legendary Jessie Mae Hemphill, four Fred McDowell cuts, five Ranie Burnette tunes, three R.L. Boyce cuts, two Eli Green songs on two of the cuts with McDowell, and an Othar Turner song. The CD is produced by the Austrian Label Wolf Records. This collection highlights the rich heritage of music from sleepy little Como.

Mississippi Fred McDowell is by far the best known of Como’s musicians. Born in Tennessee, McDowell was a major influence on so many of his contemporaries and musicians who were his juniors. The Rolling Stones cover of, “You Gotta Move” made McDowell a lot of money prior to his passing.

Jessie Mae Hemphill is a native of the area and even made recordings in her later years. The songs featured here were recorded in 1991 by Wolf. A stroke in 1993 kept her from playing her guitar, but she was up for vocals and tambourine and released a double album in 2004, about two years before her passing. One of her most note worthy recordings is “She Wolf,” from 1981.

Eli Green only has these two recordings to his name because of a tape recorder’s batteries running out. These two cuts with McDowell (“Brooks Run Into The Ocean” and “Bull Dog Blues” show us the influence Charlie Patton and Son House had on him and how he influenced the likes of Junior Kimbrough and Fred McDowell.

R.L. Boyce is the last surviving Como. He was nominated for the Traditional Blues Grammy in 2018. His uncle is Othar Turner and he played in his and Hemphills fife and drum bands. His first CD was released in 2007 with Cedric Burnside and Calvin Jackson. The recordings here were done in 2017 by Wolf Records, “Child of God” and Big Joe William’s “Baby Please Don’t Go.”

The 1991 sessions by Wolf also included Ranie Burnette. He played in juke joints for many years and was finally recorded in the early 1980’s. He and R.L Burnside played a lot together as did he and harpist Johnny Woods. His sound is pure hill country.

Othar “Otha” Turner is a famed bluesman first recorded in the 1960s. He garnered two Blues Music Award nominations in his lifetime. Noted for his early fife and drum band work, Turner plays guitar in a distinctively primal manner and his “Rooster Blues” is a cool introduction to the man.

This CD, produced by Hannes Folterbauer and Wolf Records, is a great introduction for listeners to get an idea of where the blues came from. The genre coalesced from the music of the plantations from Emancipation to the turn of the century. This music is the result of what happened in that period in the upper Mississippi Delta where the hill country musicians gave rise to a version of the blues that is unique and all their own. If you get bitten by the bug of this music, check out Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and other works by the great hill country musicians.

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.


 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 10 

imageJörg Danielsen – Chicago Blues Straight Outta Buenos Aires

Wolf Records International

www.wolfrec.com

14 tracks

Jörg Danielsen and his band The Vienna Blues Association toured Argentina in 2018 and one of the results of that tour are this fine album. Jörg Danielsen is featured on vocals and guitar. His argenie connection are a great group of musicians. Jorge Costales plays harmonica, Martín Burguez and Federico Verteramo are also on guitar. On drums is German Pedraza and on bass is Christian Morana. Alberto Burguez is on piano. Daniel De Vita is also on guitar and did recording and mastering.

Danielsen begins with the classic “Tough Enough.” Dirty, big harp and a great groove along with fine vocals make this fun. Magic Sam’s “She Belongs To Me” “House Party Tonight” gets a great cover with some ringing guitar and rousing vocals. A big piano solo also adds to the cut; good stuff. Albert King’s “I Got The Blues” is presented with a nice cover here. Danielsen gives his interpretation and he and the band offer up some good licks. He also covers Magic Slim’s “I’m Good” and the guitar work is solid, driving stuff. Harp and guitar go wild and Jörg delivers the tune with emotion and heart.

The other nine tracks are originals. Danielsen’s covers are always inspired; he is known for his classic blues music jams in Austria. His original stuff is equally interesting. “Want To Be My Darling” is a nice rockabilly/swing cut with a high energy, driving beat. The guitar blazes as Danielsen impresses us with his skills. “Backwoodsman Blues” is another high energy boogie. The band lets it all hang out as guitars and piano give it their all and Danielsen delivers the fun-loving lyrics. “The Fuse Is Lit” is a sweet, slow blues, thoughtful guitar, restrained harp, and a man singing about his emotional dynamite and giving warning to leave this town and not mess with him. The guitar builds into a major solo and emotional high point. “Walk The Dog” gets a little bit of a funky groove going as Jörg sings about getting out and partying as summer approaches.

Next up is “What More Can I Do?” Jörg sings about his heartbreak as his woman dumps him, leaving him singing the blues. A little humor and a lot of cool music is what this cut it; great harp work and a some nice acoustic guitar make this a lot of fun. “Close To You” is a big, driving blues with a mid tempo beat and a a great shuffle to dance to. Distorted harp and nice guitar solos are featured here. “Walking Blues” follows that, and two songs later it’s “Gamblin” Blues.” Both are traditional and quite well done. Jörg certainly has a feel for Chicago blues. He ends the album with “Donde Merda Esta Mi Cerveza.” The second word appears to be spelled incorrectly, but it should loosely translate to, “Where the shit is my beer” or perhaps in slang maybe, “Where the f-is my beer.” Either way and no matter how the title translates, the song is a swinging instrumental where everyone takes a turn and lays out some good stuff. Funky grooves, dirty harp, swinging guitars, throbbing drum beats, deep bass lines, nice piano fills and more are featured in this one.

Danielsen sings with the tiniest of an occasional accent which makes his vocals even more interesting. It’s only there once in a while, giving a tiny lilt to the music. His feel for Chicago blues is deep– the music he plays is an homage to the masters from Chicago in his covers and original stuff. I liked the CD and found Danielsen to be creative and interesting.

Wolf Records usually produces interesting stuff and they’ve succeeded here once again!

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 – 5 of 10 

imageJunior Watson – Nothin’ To It But To Do It

Little Village Foundation

www.juniorwatson.com

15 tracks

Junior Watson is an icon of West Coast blues. The liner notes by Kid Andersen speak with reverence about Watson as an influence and friend. Recorded at Andersen’s Greaseland Studio and produced by Jim Pugh’s Little Village Foundation, a non-profit company in the music industry that produces and distributes what it considers to be culturally significant recordings. Watson was a founding member of the blues band The Mighty Flyers and spent 10 years working with them through the 1980s. In the 1990’s, he performed with Canned Heat and has worked with legends like Big Mama Thornton, George Smith, Jimmy Rogers, Luther Tucker, Charlie Musselwhite, John Németh, and Kim Wilson.

On this recording Watson dabbles in vocals and does most all the guitar work. SAx gordon is on sax, Jim Pugh is on keys. Kedar Roy is on bass, Andrew Guterman is on drums, and Gary Smith is on harp. Lisa Leuschner Andersen is on vocals as in Alabama Mike (tracks 5 and 8). Kid Andersen fills in here and there, doing what he lists as “miscellaneous.”

“Up And Out” gets things going, a sweet swing tune with old style organ, pretty sax work and lots of good guitar. This instrumental is quite cool as each of the three get to give us solid solos and jump and jive to the nice beat. “Don’t Freeze On Me” brings us our first sample of Lisa’s vocals and she’s got a great set of pipes! She shouts out the lead with grit and emotion as Watson and the band also deliver the goods. Watson takes his turn fronting the band on the old classic “Louella,” where he does an admirable job on this mid-tempo swing. A blazing sax solo is followed by a restrained but oh-so-cool guitar solo. The next cut is another great instrumental, an old Duke Ellington cut called “Ska-Ra-Van.” The band gives us a nice rumba beat and some fine playing overall with sax and keys primarily featured here. Alabama Mike’s first turn out front is the original “A Shot In The Dark,” a slow and greasy blues with Watson sublimely opening on guitar. Mike sings with emotion, Gordon blows his horn with intensity, Pugh tinkles the keys with fervor and Watson’s guitar is just more Watson at his best.

Kid’s wife sings “Whole Lotta Lovin'” for us, a uptempo piece with more expressive vocals and guitar. “Summer Love” follows, a pretty little instrumental that flows sweetly with a beautiful guitar lead; wonderful touch and tone! “That’s Tough” is next has Alabama Mike return for more good vocal lead to enjoy. The piano backs him as he growls and shouts out the lyrics. Gordon, Watson and Pugh take turns soloing and it’s more superb stuff to enjoy. Lisa Andersen returns for “One Way Street” with some breathy and sexy vocals. Gordon gives us a nice, log solo that adds to the feel of the cut. “Well, You Know” introduces the harp to us with some honky tonk piano and more of Watson’s vocals. Piano. harp and guitar give us some tasty sounds to savor here.

“Space Flight” is the title song of a 1960 organist Sam Lazar instrumental album with Grant Green on guitar. The organ and guitar get fantastic, updated treatment and Gordon sweetens the pot with some grooving sax work. Next is “I Found You” where Lisa Andersen gives us her take on this Yvonne Fair classic. groovy guitar, organ and sax help make this great cut even better. “So Glad She’s Mine” is an old Charles “Hungry” Williams cut from Checker Records that Watson nails vocally. Gordon’s sax solo is beautifully done. Watson’s “The Pee Wee Classic” gives us his take on Pee Wee Crayton in this tribute instrumental. Watson takes the lead and then Gordon also delivers some great sax. Not to be outdone, Pugh comes in on piano for another solo before Watson bats cleanup. The finale is “You’re Gonna Need Me Before I Need You,” with Lisa Andersen singing with so much feeling that one gets a little emotional. Watson gives us a superb extended solo as a parting gift in this one.

What can I say? You want utterly wonderful West Coast blues? Then look not further. You want guitar work that is impeccable? You’ve got it here. How about some stellar horn blowing? Sax Gordon gives it to you. Piano and organ that are sublimely cool? Again, you’ve got it here. A great mix of vocal leads sung with emotion and lots of charm? It’s here, too. This is a superb album of blues delivered by a master and his friends. Watson and company take a baker’s dozen of exceptional tunes and turn them into their own and a couple of truly delightful originals to give you fifteen tracks to enjoy over and over again. And once you listen, you will listen to it again and again. I loved this album and listened to it many times while getting ready to review it and now that I’m done with the review I fear my future work will be impacted by wanting to here it again and again.

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.


 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 10 

imageMichael Lane – Traveling Son

Greywood Records

www.michaellanemusic.de

12 songs, 51 minutes

German pop musician Michael Lane’s new record Traveling Son is an enjoyable and at times moving reflection on life and family that meditates on the world around us.

Save the vaporous wisps of the Blues that permeates all mainstream music created after say 1945, Traveling Son is not by any metric a Blues record. Please, do read on and decide if you would like to listen to this record! There are many beautiful gripping moments in which Lane transcends what has become a modern Indie Pop formula originated by U2 and made antiseptic by Coldplay.

Michael Lane was born in Germany and moved to the United States as a child. An Iraq war veteran, Lane moved back to Germany in 2012 and began a successful career in Europe. Traveling Son is his 4th full length album and 2nd to be self-produced. Lane sings with a sweet James Taylor tenor. He also often pushes his range into a high and lonely falsetto. The music on Traveling Son, unfortunately no musicians are credited in the press info, is at times ethereal, swooping and soaring. There is strong propulsive parade ground percussion to many of the songs. This is earthy modern pop, like above mentioned Coldplay with less pretension and more heart.

There are some truly unique and genre defying moments. The title track is the first number of the sequence and sets the tone for the album. A clean arpeggiated acoustic guitar buttresses Lane in the middle of his range, full JT mode (the OG JT – Taylor not Timberlake). The verses give way to soaring loping choruss of layered vocals. This is the song that describes Lane’s childhood trip from Germany to the US, packed with emotion and evocative images. “Believe” and “Just a Child” stay on lyrical theme and follow the same quiet verse, big chorus pattern. The latter finds Lane switching to falsetto during the chorus to big emotional effect.

Traveling Son has a clear singular sound and consistency across tracks. The often extreme dynamics of the most effective songs keeps things interesting and moving. However, this record is 2 to 3 songs too long. There are a number of songs in which Lane sings entirely in falsetto with that marching thumping percussion made popular by Mumford and Sons and Imagine Dragons. These songs, all sequenced together in the middle of the album, are too similar and each song loses definition as a result. Although all good songs, a few should have been trimmed to make a more complete and concise album experience.

Michael Lane is a passionate singer and songwriter. On the solo guitar/voice live in the studio track “Stormy Weather” Lane shows off how he can testify a song. Lane sounds great on the multi-tracked overdubbed performance on the rest of the record. But, “Stormy Weather” shows why he is a star. More of this passion and in the moment power will help Lane push his music through to a new level.

Reviewer Bucky O’Hare is a Bluesman based in Boston who spreads his brand of blues and funk all over New England. Bucky has dedicated himself to experiencing the Blues and learning its history. As a writer, Bucky has been influenced by music critics and social commentators such as Angela Davis, Peter Guralnick, Eric Nisenson, Francis Davis and Henry Louis Gates Jr.



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 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 10 

imageVaneese Thomas – Down Yonder

Segue Records

www.vaneesethomas.com

12 tracks

Vaneese Thomas brings over 30 years of experience to this fine recording of all original tunes. Daughter of the legendary Rufus Thomas, Vaneese wrote or had a hand in crafting each of these songs. She recorded these songs in two sessions, the first in New York at Peaceful Studios with Wayne Warnecke, her longtime partner, and some splendid musicians. The latter session was in her hometown of Memphis with another host of great musicians. Shawn Pelton on drums and Will Lee on bass were in NY, both of television band fame. Al Orlo was on guitar and Robbie Kondor was on keys. In Memphis, Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell, Reverend Charles Hodges, Marc Franklin, Kirk Smothers and The Bo-Keys horns, and sister Carla Thomas all partook in the tunes. Special guest Kevin Bacon also performs a duet with Vaneese; a long time friend, he joins her for this nice duet here on her eighth album.

Things get going with “Ebony Man,” the story of a sharecropper who struggles to make a life with his 40 acres and a mule. Tash Neal adds his skills on dobro as Thomas sings with emotion and power in this moving piece. The horn section appears next in “I Tried,” a sultry and sexy song of love lost. Thomas again sings with pure emotion and the horns and band provide ample support in this, another exceptional tune. “Highway of Regret” follows, a slow tune about love that drifted away. Katy Jacoby adds violin, which adds to the somber mood as Vaneese testifies to her woes. The pace quickens with a throbbing beat on “Wake Me.” The horns blaze as Thomas sings stridently and Reverend Hodges makes the B3 sing. Orlo lays out some slick licks on guitar here, too. “Second Chance,” where her sister and Benita Miles sing with her and the Reverend plays some more nice B3, is a sweet mid-tempoed R&B cut. “Mama He Loves Me” rounds out the first half of the tunes, a passionate and gritty cut of a daughter telling her mother of her man’s infidelity. Thomas’ singing emotes the pain that the story tells. Well done.

“Lies” is a cut about just what the title says. Unlike the former song where she hurts and frets over her cheating man, here she goes on the offensive about her man’s cheating. Funky and direct, Thomas shows us different emotions here as she growls out the lead. The backing vocalists also do a nice job as do the guitar, horns, piano and all involved. “Handle Me Gently” is pretty ballad about a woman asking for tenderness as Thomas once again sings with the depth and breath of her emotions. Bacon joins her on “Legacy Of Pain,” a very cool cut about the unprosecuted Mississippi murders. Bacon compliments Thomas well as both sing about the lack of justice being served. Guitar and piano do a fine job in support here. “Last Kiss” is Memphis soul that hearkens to the days of STAX and the great soul sound. Horns, guitar,piano and vocals intertwine for a really special sound. “Gone” is next, a cut that mixes the revival tent with super Gospel blues. The hand claps and percussion bring you to the tent’s altar as Thomas moans out the lead. The guitar solo adds to the mix as Thomas nails yet another emotional piece. Vaneese concludes with the title track with Orlo on acoustic guitar and Tash Neal on electric guitar/slide. An autobiographical tune, Thomas sings about returning home. Her sister and friend return backing Thomas as the three drive the tune to a big and quite emotional finish.

I loved this CD. I first played it and was really impressed. I played it for my wife who was equally impressed. We listened to it several times together, enjoying the performance and original music. Thomas has done a truly exceptional job with this, her eighth album. There is absolutely nothing here not to like. A woman with a fantastic voice, musicians who know what blues and soul and R&B are all about, and a well-mixed effort technically make this one to remember. I most highly recommend this CD!

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.


 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 10 

imageGhost Town Blues Band – Shine

Self-Released

www.ghosttownbluesband.com

12 tracks

Blues, soul, rock, R&B and all sorts of other good stuff get brewed up in the latest album from Memphis’ own Ghost Town Blues Band. This, their 5th releases, oozes with good sounds, slick production and just a superb mix of music and vocals. Matt Isbell and Taylor Orr have crafted up a dozen new songs and Kevin Houston has produced a marvelous album with beautiful sounds and mixes for us to savor. Matt and Taylor are on guitars and vocals as always and Matt adds some harp, too. Kevin also joins the fray on sax and adds to the horn section with the inimitable Suavo Jones on trombone; Jones also adds trumpet and vocals and raps for us on “Dirty.” Matt Karner is on bass and vocals and Andrew McNeil handles the drums, percussion and vocals. Last but certainly not least, we have Cedric Taylor on B3, piano and vocals. Guests are noted in the track comments.

“Running Out of Time” is a southern rocker that has a nice midtempo swing to it. The guitars, trombone, sax and organ are packaged up nicely and Orr’s vocals are solid. The pace quickly picks up with the driving beat of ‘Soda Pop.” Isbell growls out the vocals and blows some harp as this cigar box-sliding cut revs it’s engines full throttle. Glorious slide mixes with Jones’ blaring horn and Isbell’s gritty vocals. The husband and wife duo of Paul DesLauriers and Annika Chambers provide outstanding vocals support on the title cut. There is some really fine guitar work here along with outstanding organ and trombone. The backline offers up a great groove, too. “Lyin’ To Yourself” is a sweet blues rocker with a Gregg Allman B3 sound and gritty vocals. A big, stinging guitar solo and piano fills make this even more special. Next up is “Givin’ It All Away,” a song that begins with some pretty piano and organ and a nice overlaid set of musical sounds from the various instruments. It breaks into a driving and big time upbeat cut. This is the closest thing to a jam band cut on the CD. At over 8 minutes, the boys air out a bunch of things, and it’s all good. Whether it’s Suavo on his trombone, Matt and Taylor of guitar, Kevin on sax, or Cedric on keys, this is some really cool stuff. “Dirty” rounds out the first half of the album. It’s a darker and slow to mid tempo cut. The vocals include some slick rapping by Jones, a nice touch.

“High Again” has a nice groove and the band responds to Isbell’s vocals calls sweetly. The guitars, horns and organ do another great job here, too. Up next is “My Father’s Son” which has a cool guitar instrumental opening and a soulful vocal delivery by Isbell. The STAX inferences are strong here as they are throughout. “Evangelie”has another Allman sort of feel for me with the dual guitars ringing together. I could see this as a Dickey Betts cut. Isbell growls out the lead and the band just gets into it with him. Organ and guitar trade some licks and everyone gets into the act. “Carry Me Home” opens with a vibe that reminds me of “Soulshine” and then turns more lamentful and blues ballad-like. Blending soul, gospel, rock and blues, the sound of this one is very well crafted. In “Heading Nowhere Fast” acoustic and electric guitar blend and kick off this sweet southern blues rocker. The tune builds and builds as the band gets more and more into the cut and gives the listener a joyous ride. The concluding tune “Hey There Lucinda,” a slow song about a father calling and very much missing his daughter. It’s a pretty cut with slide and organ that add to the feeling. More acoustic guitar layered in and some fiddle by Ilana Katz Katz, too. Just a sweet and layered Well done!

This is Ghost Town Blues Band. If you are looking for a traditional shuffle or slow Chicago blues, well, you ain’t gonna find it here. What you will find here are 12 finely crafted new sounds with great lyrics, superb musician ship, a great mix and an outstanding production. This is by far their finest effort. No covers, no overdone jam band stuff, just solid modern blues and southern rock with a few shout outs to STAX and the heritage of music made in Memphis. This is Ghost Town emerging from the larva into a fantastic and beautiful butterfly. Always edgy and cool, they now add a new level of excellence to their music.

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 – 9 of 10 

imageHudspeth & Taylor – Folie a deux

www.brandonhudspeth.com

self release

13 songs time – 48:47

Rejoyce! Vital acoustic blues drawing from but not imitating traditions is alive and well in the persons of Brandon Hudspeth & Jaisson Taylor, stalwarts on the Kansas City blues scene for close to twenty years.

Their collaboration began in 2015 resulting in this their first recorded effort. Brandon handles acoustic guitar in varying approaches. Jaisson lends his warm and expressive voice along with all manner of percussion with the cajon being the most prevalent. The African instrument the cajon translates to box. It’s a wooden box whose sides are drummed upon. The sound they attain envelopes Piedmont blues, ragtime, jazz and Chicago blues everything in between underpinned with an exuberant percussive assault. The CD title Folie a deux translates to a shared psychosis or a group hallucination. In this case an excursion into musical passion.

Right from the “git-go” the bouncy “Big Fat Hairy Lie” sets Jaisson’s rich tones over propulsive acoustic slide guitar and the omni-present percussive goodness. Next up an easy rollin’ stroll through the Delta via “Walking down the road”. Slide over “popping” percussion on the “knee-slapper” “I’ll be right back”. The reins are pulled back on the mournful, slow slide driven “I know it’s gonna rain again”.

The original “Candy Man” draws on the rag time tradition. Jaisson’s soothing voicing and whistle transports you to a ramble down a country lane. “Silly Billy” is full of jazz artist references and Django Reinhardt jazzy guitar styling’s. The late and lesser known Kansas City harmonica-singer Provine “Little” Hatch’s peppy “Rock with me baby” is the sole cover here. The narrator berates the “Low Down Dealer Man” for giving him a sh*tty hand while Brandon Slip and slides on his resonator guitar.

Oh yeah love the down home blues of “Sometimes you act crazy”. The guys turn out the instrumental rag “Folie a deux” in grand style. It’s boogie on down time on “Future” as guitar and percussion click in with each other. Toe tappin’ time is here with “When you comin’ home”. Jaisson sings in unison with Brandon’s slide guitar as he professes that he wants to be his girl’s daddy on what else “Daddy Baby” that includes the overlays electric slide by the half way point.

Without exaggerating this recording is a seamless pleasure from head to toe that begs you to give it another spin. Mostly original acoustic blues in the hands of Hudspeth & Taylor is a divine gift from the blues Gods. Don’t know how else to say it, you just gotta have this feel good treasure!

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


 Featured Blues Review – 10 of 10 

imageMoonshine Society – Sweet Thing

Mojo Music Group

www.moonshinesociety.com

9 tracks plus a bonus 10th track/48 minutes

Winner of the 2020 International Blues Challenge Best Self Produced CD, Moonshine Society’s Sweet Thing is a big, bold and exciting album of bombastic, rocking blues. Sponsored by the River City Blues Society of Virginia for the IBC entry, this Washington, D.C. based band is a hot commodity and I can see why this CD won the top honors in Memphis.

Schooled at Berkeley School of Music, lead singer Black Betty and two other band members made a pact to stay together and the band was born. Betty has sung with the likes of Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks and Jack Pearson of Allman Brothers fame, Susan Tedeschi of the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gov’t Mule and Jimmy Vivino from Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Her vocals are powerful and intense. Black Betty is a vivacious and energetic bandleader.

The band is Joe Popper on guitar, Wes Lanich and Benjie Porecke share key duties, Tod Ellsworth and Christopher Brown share the bass playing, and Rodney Dunton on drums comprise he band for the first 9 tracks. The horn section on 2 through 4 are Ron Holloway on tenor sax, Vince McCool on trumpet, and Ken Wenzel on baritone sax. Backing vocalists are Billy Mayfield, and Carly Harvey. Track 10 has Buddy Speir on guitar, Eric Scott on bass, Will Rast on keys and Andy Hamburger on drums with Black Betty.

Jason Ricci is featured as a guest blowing some mean harp on the opening original track, the CD’s title track. This is straight up, Chicago blues done with intensity and grit. Betty’s vocals are powerful and up front. The band lays out a great groove and the album begins. Ricci blasts through his support and solos with beautiful bends and blows. Next is another original entitled “Shake,” a rocking and bopping cut that introduces us to the horn section and more intense guitar work. Poppen offers up a nice solo and Betty once again nails the vocals. “Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean” is an old song written for Rut Brown who first recorded this in 1952. The horns get featured throughout and we get a nice tenor solo to boot. The backing vocals and horns help carry the tune; good stuff! “Come On Home” is an original, a sultry slow blues done in a nice ballad style. The organ support here adds some nice depth and the horns are bright (including the cool sax solo). Betty belts out the lead in growing intensity and leaves us breathless by song’s end. Johnny Winter’s “Southern Road” is next. Ricci also returns as Betty gives us an intense performance and harp and guitar blaze.

“Biscuits, Bacon and the Blues” is next, a gospel sort of cut with Betty and the organ testifying to kick things off. The song transitions into a nice bouncing tempo as Betty ask for what the title offers. Poppen gives us another good solo on his guitar, too. Bill Wither’s “Use Me On Gilded Splinters” is next. Betty makes this her own with an interesting take on the song. We get a nice bass solo to savor mid song for fun. Etta Jame’s signature song “I’d Rather Go Blind is offered up next. Black Betty does what’s needed to sell this, emoting but not overdoing it. Poppen’s guitar solo begins the move of intensity picking up as Betty continues and gives it here all. The original “Deal the Devil Made” follows, a simple, straight up blues with a breathy vocal lead and subtle guitar and bass work. The bonus track is “The One That Got Away,” a blues rocker with a big guitar intro and then Betty starts out a bit softly and subtly. The song begins to build in vocal and instrumental intensity. A sweet guitar solo and then major vocal attack help close the deal here.

This is really good stuff. The blues are authentic and well done. The seven originals are decently crafted and delivered with authority and the three covers get a nice, original spin. The musicianship is always good, too. Ricci adds some nice highlights in his two cuts and the band with it’s horn section can deliver the goods in support of Betty, whose vocals are the star of the show. I think there are good things ahead for this band- they will certainly garner airplay and notice now and it is certainly well deserved. Well worth a listen!

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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The Charlotte Blues Society – Charlotte, NC

The Charlotte Blues Society presents our March Blues Event featuring an open jam following The Instigators, an exciting Charlotte based, four piece Blues band with a command of Southern Soul, R&B, Reggae and Rock influences. Band members are Rob Dayton, Stephen Foley, John Hartley, and Michael Ingmire. Ingmire, a nationally published writer and historian, has written many musical articles about many American musical icons and is also a writing contributor to Politichicks.com and Charlotte Blues Society’s monthly newsletter.

The show starts at 7pm Sunday Mar. 1st, at The Rabbit Hole, 1801 Commonwealth Ave, Charlotte, NC. Free admission for CBS members w/valid cards. ($5 suggested donation) or $10 for others.Doors at 6:00pm. Jam at 8:45. Drums provided/Bring your own amps and for a great evening of music! We continue to collect non-perishable food items for loaves and fishes. Cash donations are also welcome. One can? YES, I can!

Other up coming CBS shows: Vanessa Collier on Sun April 5th and Jontavious Willis on Sun May 3rd. For more info on theses visit https://charlottebluessociety.org.

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 www.gnbs.org.

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: the Jack Whittle Band March 8 and Raw Sugar April 12. Bring your instrument and join in the fun. For more info visit: http://prairiecrossroadsblues.org

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 14 – 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, April 3 – Dave Fields, April 17 – Billy Flynn & Milwaukee Slim

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.  Mar 2 – Dave Weld & the Imperial Flames, Mar 9 – Kirk Crandell, Mar 23 – Scott Ellison, Mar 30 – Tony Holiday.


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