Cover photo © 2021 Margaret Lampert Photography
In This Issue
Bucky O’Hare has our feature interview with Peter Parcek. We have four blues reviews for you this week including a new book by musician Seth Walker plus new music from Luca Giordano, Wee Willie Walker and the Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra and Carole Sylvan.
From The Editor’s Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
The 2021 Blues Blast Music Awards submissions remain open through Monday, May 31st, 2021. If you have released an album this year HURRY to be sure your album is considered for a nomination.
Eligible recordings for the 14th Annual Blues Blast Awards are albums released from June 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021.
To submit your album visit www.bluesblastmagazine.com/blues-blast-awards-submission-information
Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!
Featured Interview – Peter Parcek
“I kind of like stuff that’s a little, sometimes more than a little, outside of the box. Pushing the envelope, let’s put it that way. ”
“Some people probably don’t dig it cause it’s not straight down the path. I love straight down the path stuff too, don’t get me wrong, that was always my favorite thing, and it’s what I started with and what I still love. You know what can I say? I’m a hybrid, I’m half Sicilian half Slavic, so stuff gets wild at a certain point and I just go with it. I’ve learned to just go with it cause that’s who I really am and you just gotta be who you are.”
Peter Parcek is a hybrid. A real deal Bluesman with a who’s who resume of influences and mentors, Peter follows his inspiration outside the box to deliver emotive and powerful artistic statements about his inner self that are at once deeply rooted in tradition while being unexpectedly unique and fresh. A virtuosic guitarist, Peter plays with an intensity and fluidity that allows him to express in lyrical and engaging ways. A vocalist with an understated rasp, Peter conveys a world of emotion in a single tightly measured phrase. The soft spoken, dapper Parcek describes himself as being introverted, but in conversation he is warm, engaging, thoughtful and funny. For this his second Blues Blast feature, Peter generously shared his concept of his music, the reflective journey he took to becoming a solo recording artist, the broad arsenal of sonic tools he employs to make the lush and lavish sounds he crafts, and some truly inspirational stories about his formative experiences with some Blues legends.
Parcek’s backstory is well documented both in Blues Blast and his excellent web site. A product of the Vietnam War era, right out of high school in his native Connecticut, he relocated to London, England. Hitting the sweet spot of the British Blues scene, he saw many of the British Invasion soon to be super stars and was especially influenced by the greatest British Bluesman Peter Green.
Sent back to the US for lack of working papers, Parcek embarked on a multi-decade adventure through the height of the 80’s and 90’s Blues explosion. Based out of Boston, he was THE journeyman guitar slinger of the Northeast right up till the early 2000’s when he was ready to truly break out on his own. In his late 50’s, Parcek launched into a solo career with 2010’s The Mathematics of Love. Produced by fellow iconoclast Ted Drozdowski, The Mathematics of Love began his surge into following his own sound, his own muse. After over 30 years of professionally playing the Blues the moment was finally right.
“There’s a couple layers to it. One thing has to do with learning to be a vocalist. I was a guitar player first, played with really good vocalists, but I didn’t sing full time you know what I mean. I played in bands with singers. For me, I had to learn what my voice was capable of both in terms of key signatures, phrasing, stylistically. And then I had to find something real with it, something that was at least attempting to be, endeavoring to be, original. You know I wanted to sing like Otis Rush and I had a period where I was probably driving my producer at the time crazy cause I was doing as much Otis Rush as I could vocally. That is a brilliant model, I mean I love Otis Rush, but, it became clear to me that I was not Otis Rush. You know this applies to several other artists who I adore as vocalists. So I had to find my voice’s voice (haha) if that makes any sense. People talk about playing within yourself, sometimes they do that with sports, but it also applies to music and it applies to singing. I needed to be confident enough to play within myself and sing within myself. And you know sometimes that’s meant I’ve done a little less vocally.”
“So that was one reason, another reason was material. Again along a kind of parallel track, there’s an awful lot of great Blues guitar players, many of whom sing. So if you’re gonna put out a record, or if you’re me wanting to put out a record then there needs to be a focus there needs to be, I guess you would almost say an architecture both to the playing but also to the record that you are going to make. There’s gotta be a shape to it and a flow to it. Maybe because I’m still somewhat rebellious (chuckles) at 71, I feel like it’s important to try to bring something fresh. I try to either write or find and arrange things so they’re a little different, hopefully inspiring for the listener too. But, it took me a bit to find that, to find what would really work. You know, there are somethings you think you might be good at and other things that you have to look yourself in the mirror and say ‘I love this but I don’t think I should put that on a record,’ if that makes any sense. So a lot of it is kind of really looking deep inside at who you are, what you are, what you want to express, or what you need to express, what you want the records to be about.”
“I realized that the concept of a team is really important to me. Getting a great engineer, getting a great empathetic set of ears, whether that’s a producer or the engineer acting as a co-producer. And then getting in tune, I don’t mean in tune on a meter, but in tune in terms of their feelings and commitment, musicians to surround yourself with. Because again music is about inspiration.”
Being flexible and in tune to the inspiration, 2017’s sophomore outing Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven found Peter in Nashville at a time when that town was booming with singer/songwriters. Peter let the waves of creativity wash over him and created a piece that focuses on his original songwriting voice.
“I think some of that with Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven was that I knew I was going to be doing that in Nashville, that record. I had originally thought I was gonna be doing it with a different producer and I just couldn’t afford it. I have another friend down there (Marco Giovino) who was kind enough to basically cut me a friend deal so I could do it there. He got these amazing musicians who were all of his friends basically. So I know the bar, the metaphorical bar, was being set really high and I wanted to bring as much originality as I could to that. So I wrote a bunch of things, not all of which we used, but you know some stuff just fits better on some records than others. It’s a weird thing, it’s hard to explain why, I think some of it is predominantly emotional. Something might actually fit but if it doesn’t feel right to you. So I knew that this was gonna be this amazing band, I wanted to bring as much that was fresh and new to that situation as I could. I got inspired and wrote just a whole bunch of stuff. It kind a comes in waves to me, there’s really no pattern to it, I work hard but I should have more of a program, but I don’t. Like get up every morning, writing from 8 to 1 or something like that, I write purely from inspiration.”
Like so many other Blues musicians, Peter is an independent business owner, working on his career himself and hustling to get traction. “It’s kind of a tricky thing being an independent, you know. I mean my record company is myself, my wife and my cat. (laughs) I’m lucky I get to work with people like Patty Debris and Rick Lusher and so forth (agents and promotions), but I don’t have a machine behind me you know what I mean?” Like so many independent artist the COVID pandemic has hit the big pause button. Peter’s 2020 release Mississippi Suitcase should have built off the success of his two previous records and allowed Peter to play far and wide. But, sadly like all of us he was grounded. Delving even more deeply into eclectic waters, Suitcase, co-produced by Ducky Carlisle owner of Ice Station Zebra in Massachusetts, is a triumph of modern Blues and will hopefully serve him well once things open back up.
“Mississippi Suitcase started with an instrumental record, I made an instrumental record called The Supernatural. Not because I thought I’m supernatural but because it had that track on it (a Peter Green song). So I did what I thought was an instrumental record. You know I got good response to it, but a lot of the people I wanted to work on with it said ‘well, why don’t you do a vocal record?’ So that kind of gave me a hint. So I thought about that for a bit, I thought about just putting out the instrumental record, you know just being stubborn. (chuckles) I thought I really do want to work with these people so I started writing. I already had a bunch of instrumentals, as I say, I thought completed. But, the world was changing, the ground was changing underneath all of us. So I just kind of let that guide me. Not that it’s a news real or something. But I let the emotions and the experiences of what was going on just guide me. I had some, I guess you would say benchmarks, Sonny Boy Williamson and J.B. Lenoir and folks who wrote topically, or sometimes wrote topically, Lighnin’ Hopkins being another one.”
“So a few songs like that kind of came through and then I knew I had to balance it, I didn’t want a whole record like that. I had what I thought were strong instrumentals and I wanted to pair them. Basically I wrote probably 6 or 7 things and I arranged a bunch more. I’ve always loved the song ‘Everybody Oughta Make a Change’ by Sleepy John Estes, and I was trying to find a way to do it that was me, that wasn’t only trying to play it like John. And there were a couple other songs like that. I’ve always loved the song ‘Life is a One Way Ticket’ by Cousin Joe Pleasant. You know there is a perspective in that, in the lyric in that song, it’s humorous but it’s true at the same time. I rehearsed with a rhythm section, the guys who are on most of the record, and we just kind of had a sound. That was Tim Carmen on drums and percussion and Marc Hickox on electric bass. There was just kind of a sound with those two guys, and an energy and enthusiasm and we did an awful lot in a short time in rehearsal. So I knew once we got in the studio with that the chances are it was gonna be really really good. So we went in and did a bunch of tracks like that and then we brought in Tom West, who is just a brilliant keyboard player and been a friend for a long time. That’s kind of the genesis of that.”
“Also during that time I had had a pretty serious injury to my wrist and I wasn’t sure what was gonna happen with that, I was kind of playing through pain. After we completed the recordings for the album I had to start wearing a brace which was kind of like a cast. I am okay now, was lucky I didn’t have to have surgery. So it wasn’t a simple or painless process writing, feeling or recording any of that music. It kind of reflected everything else that was going on in the world at that time. Certainly the music you and I love, it’s about truth, it’s about high ideals and it’s about truth. I mean it can be down and dirty, but, it’s about truth, it’s about humanity. That’s what I was trying to pour into this and connect with. In some ways I think it is the simplest, most direct that I’ve played on a record.”
Guitar tone is a personal and at times elusive thing. There is an overabundance of gizmos and gadgets one can use to augment, accentuate and distort the sound of a guitar’s strings vibrating. Musicians such as Peter, and Ted Drozdowski for that matter, have learned how to employ the wealth of effects and amplifiers to dramatic and meaningful results. With musicians like these the effects are used to accentuate the music and sharpen the power of the statement.
“Early on I went straight in, whatever guitar I had I went straight in and usually to a Fender amp. At a certain point it became harder to get the tones I was looking for at the volume levels that the venues I was playing would allow. In other words, I love to turn the thing up. You know some of those tones are not available if you have to play at 4 on the dial. So almost against my will I got back into some colors provided by these boxes (effect stomp boxes). So now-a-days it’s a little different between studio and live. On Mississippi Suitcase we recorded a high percentage of it at Ducky Carlisle’s place. He has tweed Twins, he has vintage Marshalls, he has brown Deluxes, tweed Princtons, you name it. Then I brought a Swart Atomic Space Tone which is what you hear on the chord part in ‘Beyond Here Lies Nothing” and ‘Everybody Oughta Make a Change,’ you hear that tremolo and reverb from that amp real strong. I also brought a Carr Skylark, and you know little Fenders, little tweed Fenders and also another Swart amp called the Space Tone, that’s one of my favorites.”
“Kinda got into some trouble with Ducky’s neighbors in recording ‘The Supernatural.’ Because the only way to get those tones, or at least the only way we could figure out how to get those tones is to turn the thing up to patent pending. So we had two amps I think we had a Marshall and we had a tweed Twin and we were getting some really really beautiful tones. But, Ducky lives right next to a couple that recently moved in and they really weren’t very happy with the sonic onslaught (hahaha).”
Being a guitarist first, Peter always incorporates a number of instrumentals into his music. Always approaching things from his own angle, Peter makes many interesting choices. There are instrumental songs he records such as “The Supernatural” as was the title track for his would be instrumental record and is an emotional high point on Mississippi Suitcase. But, Peter, like a great Jazzman such as Grant Green or Wes Montgomery, often takes vocal songs and turns them inside out as instrumentals. His take on Lucinda Williams’ “Gotta Get Right with God” from Mathematics or the classic Rickie Lee Simms “She Likes to Boogie Real Low,” and the Beatles “Eleanor Rigby” from Suitcase are revelations. The prototype for this thread of Parcek’s work came in the form of the Ray Charles staple “Busted” on Mathematics.
“There is a very profound reason for doing ‘Busted’ as an instrumental. My uncle introduced me to the music of Ray Charles, my uncle Joe. I remember walking into his house one day and hearing this music I was like ‘what is that?’ That’s Ray Charles, man, you gotta sit down and just listen to that and absorb that and feel that. Now the difficulty comes, cause you know you’re not gonna be able to sing it like Ray Charles, you know what I mean? Come on (chuckles), I mean I’m not. I would love to but I know in my heart I’m still working on being a vocalist, so. I really wanted to do that song, I love the lyrics of the song, obviously I adore Ray Charles version of it. So then we started just kind of thinking about it, you know thinking aloud about it. Well what if Ray Charles met Jimi Hendrix and Roy Buchanan and kind of went to Mars (laughs). That’s what we were going for, seriously that’s what we were going for. We were honored and lucky to have Al Kooper play on it. And then all that weirdness that wildness, I borrowed a whammy pedal from Ted Drozdowski who produced the record. Ted and Ducky who engineered it and myself just went crazy on that thing. I thought we were gonna break the whammy bar right off my guitar and I was convinced that we were gonna destroy this whammy pedal, cause we were working both of them. (haha) So some of those sounds were completely and utterly experimental and definitely not planned, but in a good way. (haha)”
Parcek has had a full life so far in music. Having been tutored by many of the greats, he also studies the music and finds constant inspirations from the wealth of music. Using his social media as an outlet hebattempts to pay homage.
“I was just trying to do something positive with the format, you know not just talk about me, try to focus it back on the giants who were inspired by and actually standing on the shoulders on. I know the stuff that I learned that’s allowed me to play. I know the names and what those people mean to me, I’m not saying I know everything I certainly do not. And I’m not trying to present myself as any kind of expert, I’m just a huge fan. I guess that is one way to give back, or that’s how I’m looking at it is to point people to this music. Or, recognize people who maybe not everybody knows or who have been forgotten a little bit by folks. I’m excited when people say ‘hey I didn’t know about so and so’ or ‘I hadn’t thought about so and so in a long time.’ That’s the impetus for me, it’s a kind of giving back.”
Parcek can draw from experience when he is sharing. Being the go to guitarist in the Northeast for now over 4 decades has afforded him an education. One very important mentor was Pinetop Perkins. In the early 90’s Parcek worked with Pinetop, touring and learning at his feet.
“I was playing in the Boston version of Nine Below Zero. The much more famous version is obviously the UK version and we weren’t trying to rip them off, we just loved the Sonny Boy tune and we needed a name (ha). We got popular, we were doing pretty well, limited circle in and around Boston. There came to be these guys who would come check us out who had a small interest in Syncro Sound which was a studio on Newbury Street which was owned by the Cars. These two guys, one was a producer and one was an engineer, they were gonna start doing Blues recordings in Syncro as part of their deal with the studio. They did several and one they had planned to do with Pinetop, cause he was gonna come through. And they did the sessions with Pinetop. For whatever reason, I don’t know all the ins and outs of it, they wanted some other guitar stuff on a few tracks. So the engineer called me up and he said ‘would you have any interest in playing on a Pinetop Perkins record?’ I was like ‘any interest? Yeah I mean you tell me when and where and I’ll be there.’ He said ‘well here’s the thing here’s what we want, we want you to double the piano parts. There’s the figures, kind of signature figures that Pinetop Perkins will do and we want the guitar to double them.’ I said sure. He said ‘well I’ll send you 3 tracks and you learn those figures and we’ll see how it goes.’ I remember I went down to Syncro Sound and brought my blackface Super Reverb and a Stratocaster and I had learned as much as I could of the music. So we did it and they seemed to like it and so they had me play on some more tracks. The record is called On Top. So, did the record, they seemed to like it. They said ‘well Pinetop is gonna come through the Northeast. Would you have any interest in playing with him on some of the shows?’ I’m like ‘what are you kidding? Yeah!’ ‘How would you feel about putting together a rhythm section?’ ‘Yeah! I know guys, like right now, we’ll go do it tonight!”
“There were many interesting and complicated factors in all this. One was that for the portion of the tour where we were going to play, we, meaning myself, Mike Lavesque the drummer and Ed Spargo the bass player, we were going to back Pinetop up. I was going to be the quote unquote musical director. Now you and I and everybody who reads Blues Blast knows that Pinetop Perkins was the musical director. What it meant is that they were gonna pay me, I was gonna get the money. Doesn’t mean I was gonna keep the money it just means I was gonna get the money at the club.”
“So the first night that we played together he was on fire, I mean seriously he was just tearing it up in a beautiful way, really artistic way. And I lay way way way back because I understood people in this room were here for this artist. This guy, he’s a legend and there’s a reason he’s a legend. So after the first set we were in the dressing room and Mr. Perkins called me over and he said ‘why aren’t you playing? I know you can play, why aren’t you playing?’ And I said ‘you are the reason this club is sold out. I understand that I am backing you up and I’m trying to be really respectful of your legacy,’ and on and on. He was like ‘you know what, I like it when the guitar player gets up my ass. When I look at you, I want you to play.’ And there was kind of a implied ‘you BETTER play.’ And so I did. When he looked at me, I played. And he taught me this is what I do on this song, these are the chords I do, I’m gonna do the figures here, I’m gonna use this as a break tune and he smiled. And after that night he came over, he rubbed the drummer’s head and he looked at all of us and he said ‘you made an old man feel young.’ I don’t know, he might have said that to every band he played with but I have to tell you it was a thrill hearing it from him. Consistently I have to say about the experience he was incredibly supportive, he was a mentor.”
Peter also got to witness first hand the hardship a black man had to endure and the coping strategies he had to employ to survive. Often double booking himself and taking advantage of every opportunity offered, Mr. Perkins was mistrustful of business people and record executives. A gentle fatherly man who also carried a switchblade, there were times Peter and the band were left holding the bag because Mr. Perkins was at a different gig that paid better. Similarly some venues tried to short change Mr. Perkins even though he had sold out their club. Mr. Perkins’ policy of recording as much as possible also created some funny situation one of which Peter still holds dearly.
“We were in a club in Nova Scotia. One off shoot of Mr. Perkins taking offers as they were presented, he might do similar songs on a couple of different records and those records might be out if not simultaneously within a short period of time. So there was On Top but then there was a record on Antone’s that had featured great players like Duke Robillard and Kim Wilson, etc. So we’re in the club and this track comes on and I recognized it right away because it was from the On Top record. But, he was sitting there, he turned to somebody and he said ‘that Duke Robillard he’s the best in the world.’ And it was me. So it was like a weird, it was a compliment but it was heartbreaking because he didn’t know it was me. And you know (cracking up) Duke is one of the best in the world so you know I was just like okay I’ll take it. (laughing)”
Parcek is working on his next record. This next one will have a large influx of original material. After he opened up the floodgates in 2010 he has been on a mission to create as much music as possible. He is also looking forward to bringing his music to people.
“I think I got an agent when I was 69 or 70 years old. Now that I’ve kinda got enough records out, I’m hoping that I’m going to be able to take all the best of those records and all this new stuff I’ve been working on and have a really really strong, really exciting musical presentation to make. That’s what I’d really like to do, that’s what I’d like to focus on now. Because I feel like I’m trying to outrun age I want to really go out there and make a statement with the music and with the themes. Much like the records themselves but pick the stuff we can do best live.”
Peter Parcek is the great Blues romantic. Not that he sings love songs, although he does have a few. But, he plays for us out of deep love for the human spirit and the power of inspiration. Courageously, he puts himself out on a tightrope and melds all the, at times disparate, sonic threads of his inner life into a sonic tapestry he wants to wrap us in.
“You know music, a lot of it is about inspiration. Just trying to share the inspiration, pass it on and keep it going. Music it’s almost like an element. It’s as necessary as an element, it’s as necessary as what we’re breathing. Music draws people together. It can unite people who might not unite otherwise if you know what I’m talking about. I think that’s an amazing and beautiful thing about music, it can unite us and God knows we need that more than ever it seems.”
Interviewer 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.
Blues Blast Music Award Submissions
Open until May 31st, 2021!
The Blues Blast Music Awards honor contemporary Blues artists and their recordings.
Artists with major labels and independent artists are eligible to be considered.
NEW FOR 2021 – All submissions are digital. No physical CDs needed.
Submission Fees for 2021
$50 until April 30, 2021
$75 May 1, 2021 to May 15, 2021
$100 May 16, 2021 to May 31, 2021
Please submit your music as soon as possible!
It makes the nominators job easier.
For complete information, click HERE to visit our website.
Featured Blues Review – 1 of 4
Seth Walker – Your Van Is On Fire
Ostinato Muse Press
95 Pages Softcover edition
Over the last 20-plus years, Seth Walker has been shared his original music through eleven albums and constant touring. He started out working in a solidly blues-based style. The passing of time has revealed the true depths of his musical interests, which span jazz, soul, country into sounds from around the world.
The truth is that Walker has talents beyond his skills as a singer, songwriter, and guitar player, which becomes abundantly clear as you take in his new book, subtitled “The miscellaneous meanderings of a musician”. He deftly mixes short musings on a variety of life experiences with several poems and numerous examples of his fine artistic endeavors.
Following an introduction by Oliver Wood, the noted roots musician, Walker digs into life sharing this observation, “No one showed Lightnin’ Hopkins how to be so Lightnin’-like or schooled Duke Ellington on how to swing like a royal, …..Mark Twain said education consists mainly in what we’ve unlearned. You gotta play it by feel man.”
Taking readers from the North Carolina log cabin he grew up in to deep in the heart of Texas, across the country, and on to a moment when he was passing the time in a Tokyo bar with a handful of locals, Walker reveals subtle insights served up with plenty droll humor. Vignettes about losing his audience to an animal act, experiencing a Grateful Dead show, or the tale that spawned the book’s title all ring true with the hard-earned wisdom gained from reflection of one’s life journey.
In the section titled “Masters,” he offers glimpses of a number of musical influences, elaborating on the lessons from people like Allen Toussaint, Willie Nelson, Dr. John, and Guy Clark. One remarkable story revolves around a night at a famed Florida blues club with funk master George Clinton in the audience. Writing about T-Bone Walker, he divulges, “The man was a snake around the beat. Through some musical sleight of hand, he played drums on the guitar….He sang the blues like a trumpet player….delivering me to the most perfect orb of sound I had never known.”
Interspersed throughout the book are examples of Walker’s paintings, with more highlighted in the final section. Most are done with oil on canvas, but one titled “Trying My Hand” is a striking work done with chalk pastel on paper. Switching mediums, the examples of his poetry seem simple at first glance, but repeated readings slowly reveal the universal truths in works like “Truth Be Told” and “Leaves,” the ending of which packs quite a punch.
While the book runs less than 100 pages, it is a fun read, and definitely thought-provoking. It also allows fans to gain greater insight into the depth of Walker’s artistry. Available on his website, along with his paintings, this book is a small treasure that readers will savor time and again.
Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying the sun and retirement. He is the past President of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and a former member of the Board of Directors for the Blues Foundation. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!
Featured Blues Review – 2 of 4
Luca Giordano – Let’s Talk About It
Blue Crawfish Records
Luca Giordano is a great Italian bluesman who here has released his third, fine solo album. Let’s Talk About It features eleven tracks, 8 originals by Luca Giordano and three songs written by Mighty Mo Rodgers, Eric “Guitar” Davis and Sean Costello. Born in 1980, Luca moved to Chicago and has been a student of the blues. He learned at the feet of Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Sharon Lewis, James Wheeler and others and has appeared at the Chicago Blues Festival and other events in the US. He released two solo CDs after moving back to Italy and also collaborated with Quique Gomez and the Chicago 3011 Session and made recordings with them.
Luca has toured on his own and with Bob Stroger, John Primer, Jimmy Burns, Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne, Sugar Ray Rayford, Nora Jean Bruso, Billy Branch , Chris Cain and countless others. He has appeared all-across Eastern and Western Europe along with North and South America. His work with Might Mo Rogers from Chicago and his band has also helped him to grow in his blues depth of knowledge and feeling.
Luca Giordano handles the guitar and vocals here. On the Hammond organ and piano are Abramo Riti while Walter Cerasani is on bass and Fabio Colella is on drums. Guest appearances by the legendary Mighty Mo Rogers and tenor saxist Sax Gordon round out the album nicely. Gordon did all the horn arrangements on the four cuts he appears on. Some special appearances by Italian artists Alessandro Di Bonaventura (trumpet), Walter Monini and Nicola Di Camillo (bass), Lorenzo Poliandri and Eric Cisbani (drums), and Chiara Giordano (backing vocals) also enrich the production and sound. Lastly, Francesco Cerasoli appears on a guitar solo in “Cold Winter”.
The CD opens with “Let’s Talk About It,” a soulful and funky slow to mid-tempo instrumental with thoughtful and pretty guitar work, nice horns and a neat organ solo. “Teasin’ Me” is next, a peppy and bright little blues number with cool guitar work and a really good piano solo. Luca’s guitar is well done, clean and airy. “Next Time” continues to jump and swing with horns and piano accompaniment. Gordon rips off some great tenor sax for us to enjoy and Luca adds a stinging guitar solo to close things out and then the band and he takes us home to conclude a very cool number. “Cold Winter” follows, a slow and dirty blues with some impassioned vocals and piano and organ accompaniment. The big organ solo is slick and well done and then Cerasola climbs aboard for his guitar solo and it’s really special, too. Mo Rogers fronts the band for his song “Movin’ Day,” and hits it out of the park. His vocals are outstanding and the feeling is deep and full of dark emotions. The lyrics describe a split up and a couple moving out of their place together. Sad, slow, somber and really full of feeling- so well done. Giordano’s guitar plays to the emotions and then Luca adds his vocal verse with equal feeling. What a great cut!
“Flat 915” follows, picking up the pace just a little and Luca sings with hopes of finding his woman back in their flat. The horns again do a great job and Giordano’s guitar is again well paced and played with excellent tone. Giordano goes to the hills a little bit with “Heartquake Blues” which is a bouncy song with a lot of interesting guitar and organ in it that showcase Luca and the band again. “Buzios Blues” has a little bit of honky-tonk feel to it; to be frank, I had to look up what Buzios is. It’s a beach resort in Brazil and Luca’s giving us a rundown of his blues from the town. The piano is really well done here and, of course, so is the guitar. Next up is Sean Costello’s “Have You No Shame,” a slow blues about lost love. The piano help set the tone and feel for the sadness expressed here and then the guitar comes in to seal the deal; the organ lays over both to blend and add to the emotion. The album concludes with “Days of My Life,” a funky and soulful piece by Eric Davis. Slow blues, down tempo, dark and well supported by the horns and organ who help the vocals with that down and dirty feel. In his final guitar solo, Luca wails and stings with his instrument oh-so-sweetly and takes us out to a stark but cool ending.
The growth of Luca Giordano as a blues musician has been a wonderful thing to watch. Every release shows a growth in his musical maturity. His approach to playing the blues shows reverence and deep appreciation for the music. He is a consummate musician, singer songwriter and all-around great guy! Highly recommended!
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 – 3 of 4
Wee Willie Walker and the Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra – Not In My Lifetime
Blue Dot Records
14 songs – 53 minutes
The great soul/blues singer, Wee Willie Walker, died in his sleep in November 2019, just three days after finishing his vocals for Not In My Lifetime, his second recording with Anthony Paule’s Soul Orchestra. He was 77 years old but, on the evidence of this disc, he was still right at the top of his game.
The album opens with a short excerpt from a spoken interview with Willie in which he expresses his enthusiasm for the new album. Willie sounds in great health but says, with desperately sad prescience, “It was the most fun project I’ve ever had the opportunity of working on, because of all the different personalities and great people that are involved. I don’t think it could ever happen again. Not for me. Not in my lifetime.”
Blessed with a powerful, fluid voice that was equally at home with soul, blues or gospel, Walker found his ideal backing group when he connected with the Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra who, amongst many other achievements have been the festival house band at the Porretta Soul Festival in Italy since 2015. Their technical excellence, wide range and sympathetic backing are all on display in Not In My Lifetime.
The majority of the tracks on the album are self-written by the band, particularly the co-producers Larry Batiste and Christine Vitale together with Poule, but there are also inspired covers of Dee Clark’s 1964 hit, “Heartbreak”, Jerry Ford’s “Warm To Cool To Cold” (which Walker had himself previously recorded for Goldwax Records in 1968) and “Suffering With The Blues”, which has been covered by Little Willie John, Irma Thomas, James Brown and Roomful of Blues, amongst many others. And the covers are indicative of the overall ambiance of the album, with a warm 1960’s soul-blues vibe throughout.
The album was recorded at the 25th Street Studio in Oakland, California with legendary producer, Jim Gaines, and engineer Gabriel Shepard, who capture a superb sound that never feels cluttered, despite the number of instruments and singers. Walker is backed by Paule on guitar and electric sitar, Tony Lufrano on Hammond organ, piano and wurlitzer, Endre Tarczy on bass, Kevin Hayes on drums, Derek James on trombone, Bill Ortiz on trumpet, Charles McNeal and Rob Sudduth on saxophone, and Baptiste, Sandy Griffith and Omega Rae on backing vocals. Guests include Jon Otis on percussion, Curt Ingram on French horn, and The Sons Of Soul Revivers (James Morgan, Dwayne Morgan and Walter Morgan) on backing vocals.
Highlights abound, but the bouncing “I’m Just Like You” could make the dead get up and dance, while “Warm To Cool To Cold” is an object lesson in how to play a shuffle properly. Walker’s vocals on “Let The Lady Dance” are heartbreaking. Special mention should also go to Batiste’s horn arrangements and Tony Lufrano’s charts. The interplay between the instruments on tracks like “Suffering With The Blues” and the instrumental “Almost Memphis” are a delight.
Not In My Lifetime is a superb release and a fitting tribute to one of the most under-rated soul-blues singers of the last 40 years. Magnificent stuff.
Reviewer Rhys Williams lives in Cambridge, England, where he plays blues guitar when not holding down a day job as a technology lawyer or running around after his children. He is married to an American, and speaks the language fluently, if with an accent.
Featured Blues Review – 4 of 4
Carole Sylvan – Love
The Orchard – 2021
10 tracks; 38 minutes
Information on both Carole Sylvan and this album was hard to find, but I have gleaned that Carole is an experienced singer from New York who has performed with a wide variety of acts, done commercials and movie soundtracks, but this is the first album under her own name that I could find. Carole handles all vocals (lead and background) and is supported by a wide cast of musicians, the core being Charlie Karp (Buddy Miles) on guitar, Scott Spray on bass and Bobby T Torello on drums, both of whom played with Johnny Winter, amongst others. With horns on most tracks, the style is a pleasing blend of soul, Rn’B and a little blues, four of the songs being written by Charlie who sadly passed away in 2019.
Of Charlie’s songs “Lighthouse” is a splendid ballad with a superb vocal arrangement, fine sax and keys work and a nicely poised guitar solo on the outro from co-writer Rafe Klein; this one really grabs your attention! “Keep It Clean” heads to the funky side of the street while “Love To Love” is another winner with a central horn riff that recalls vintage Bobby Bland, a song that Carole obviously liked enough for a short reprise at the end of the album! Charlie’s other contribution is “I Still Love You Anyway” which replaces the horns with the mournful sound of a cello, a sad ballad with some rather different time changes which Carole sings convincingly.
The closest to straight blues is a cover of “I Cry For You”, a track from Willie Dixon’s late period album Hidden Charms. With Rafe playing some funky guitar and organ and piano to the fore, this is one of the tracks without horns. A completely different rhythm section plays on the upbeat and soulful “Only One Around”, written by Gary Thompson, about whom I could find no information. “What Do You Call It? (I Call It Love)” makes a strong opener to the album with its soul and gospel approach, a duet between Carole and the writer of the song, New York soulman Bobby Harden. Moving away from soul, Carole sounds equally at home on the familiar “Tennessee Whiskey”, probably now better known from Chris Stapleton’s rather than George Jones’ version. The absolute highlight of the album, however, has to be the cover of The Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody”. It’s a wonderful song, originally written for pitching to Otis Redding who, sadly, was killed before that could happen. The song was, of course, memorably covered by Nina Simone and subsequently Janis Joplin, The Animals and Michael Bolton are among many acts that have recorded it, but, in this reviewer’s opinion, this version is as good as any, Carole’s deeply soulful lead vocals brilliantly supported by her own choral vocals and a fine performance by the band, notably producer Vic Steffen’s piano and J. Meo’s sax and flute.
Fans of soulful vocals and horn-drenched arrangements will find plenty to enjoy here!
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.
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