Issue 15-30 July 29, 2021


Cover photo © 2021 Bob Minkin

 In This Issue 

Tee Watts has our feature interview with music legend Lester Chambers. We have eight Blues reviews for you this week including a 3 LP Deluxe Limited Edition reissue of Vangard Records, plus new music from Roger Hurricane Wilson, Tito Jackson, Mission Brown, Big Mike Aguirre & The Blu City All Stars, Lisa Mann, Clint Morgan and Tom Buegner.

 From The Editor’s Desk 


Hey Blues Fans,

Have you voted yet? The 2021 Blues Blast Music Awards voting remains open until 12:00pm CDT August 6th, 2021

Click HERE to vote NOW! (You may only vote once.)

If you are in the central US there is a great Blues festivals coming your way this weekend!

Our friends at the Prairie Dog Blues Festival in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin have a great show planned this weekend featuring Ally Venable Band, Reverend Raven & The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys featuring Westside Andy, Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials and John Németh on Friday night.

On Saturday the fun continues with Roscoe Foster and The Rascal Theory, The Bell Brothers revival featuring Lurrie and Steve Bell, Amanda Fish, Tony Holiday, Altered Five Blues Band and Vella. For information and tickets visit or click on their ad in this issue.

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

 Featured Interview – Lester Chambers 

imageThe Chambers Brothers; George (RIP), Willie, Lester, and Joe electrified the world with their hit anthem of psychedelia, “Time Has Come Today.” In 1967, in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, in the Summer of Love, the song sat at #11 for five weeks on the Billboard Top 100. Their top-tier, four-part harmonies have been rarely sonically matched in the recorded annals of Popular music.

Until now though, many music history buffs would erroneously place the Brothers solely in the Rock spectrum as purveyors of that hybrid labeled Psychedelic Soul. The Chambers Brothers have a solid foundation in the Blues as well. Here, Lester speaks on having the Blues in Mississippi and the gift of his first harmonica from his dad.

“The Blues come from misery. From having something too long that you don’t want. Or from longing too long for something that you know you will never get. Sharecropping life in Carthage, Mississippi was a hard life. It was like the worst life anybody could ever have. I actually saw the owner of the farm where we lived, Mr. Doug, give my Dad fifty cents and tell him, “That’s all you cleared this year, George. But think about it. Your family still has a place to stay and you can get anything you want at the store.” You know they had a little store where you could get fertilizer, cornmeal, and all your essentials for that type of miserable life.”

“To this day I don’t know how my dad was able to give me my first harmonica. He just opened up his hand one day and said, ‘Is this what you’re looking for?’ It was a brand new Hohner harmonica. I was totally enamored of it. I’d already heard Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee’s version of “Fox Chase” on The Grand Ol’ Opry. Sonny would be on it, man. He made that harmonica talk. I used to dream of meeting him.”

The Chambers Brothers escaped Mississippi sharecropping and landed In LA when Lester Chambers was fourteen. A chance meeting with Jimmy Reed fermented an already growing Blues consciousness.

“When I started school in California, the pastor of the church we attended noticed that I was always looking for something to do. He gave me a lawnmower to keep me busy and out of the devil’s workshop. I would cut lawns after school and on Saturdays.”

“One day while pushing the mower, I heard some music coming from an open window. I pushed the mower closer and peeped in there. There was a guy sitting there, having himself a drink and playing music on the record player. He noticed me and said, “Hi, you like music?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Well, I’m Jimmy Reed.”

“I was only 14 years old but I had heard about Jimmy Reed back in Mississippi. Now he was in my neighborhood in L.A. at 17th Street and Union because he had a gig at the Orpheum Theatre. In those days they wouldn’t let African-Americans stay at the hotels downtown, so the venue would rent a room for the artist when they were in town for a gig.”

“So there he was in this room with a bed and pillows on the floor playing his music. He invited me in and it was a mindblower. I went down to the Orpheum to try and see him play. I messed around and got a job passing out fliers in front of the theatre.”

Though the Brothers had performed as a quartet at church functions in Mississippi before they established themselves in California as the Chambers Brothers, Brother Willie Chambers went on the road with Long Gone Miles a Texas friend of Lightnin’ Hopkins.

Even later as the Chambers Brothers broke into the L.A. coffeehouse scene, Lester befriended harmonica ace, Brownie McGee.

“So we went to hear Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee. After their set, we somehow were able to get into the dressing room. I talked to Sonny a bit I told him that we were part of a Gospel group known as the Chambers Brothers. He opened up to me and let me know that being on the road was creating a craving for some home cooking. He said he wanted some fried chicken, collard greens, cornbread, and iced tea. So we hooked him up. We invited him over to our brother Willie’s house and my sister Jewell came over and prepared him a meal which he immensely enjoyed.”

image“We had a few more interactions over time and at one point he gave me four harmonicas. When he did that, Brownie looked at him and remarked, “You crazy so and so. One day that young man will take your job away from you.” He was joking of course. Sonny also gave me the only harmonica lesson I ever had in life. Aside from that one lesson, I’m completely self-taught. I approached James Cotton about a lesson once upon a time in Washington, D.C. when he was with Muddy Waters but he said he didn’t have time. We did become good friends though.”.

“Over the years I’ve hung out with and/or shared stages with Buddy Guy and Jr. Wells, Big Mama Thornton, Big Joe Turner, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb. Reverend Gary Davis and so many others. Hanging out in the tents at various festivals with them was like attending a Blues University. “

The Chambers Brothers brand has remained legendary from the Summer of Love, through this year’s Summer of Soul, the film that sat dormant for over 50 years, just released this summer. In the opening scenes, the Brothers perform “Uptown To Harlem” written by Funk Queen, Betty Davis, Miles’ ex. It’s a song that speaks to the cultural vibrancy and relavance of Harlem at the time. It is perfect for this film whose footage was shoved into a basement and forgotten.

The film also showcases perfomances by Nina Simone, B.B. King, Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, Sly & the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, The 5th Dimension, The Staples Singers, and so many more. The film’s belated impact mirrors the reality of why there are Blues in the first place. It has already been awarded five awards on the film festival circuit, including two awards at the prestigous industry barometer – The Sundance Film Festival. As the credits roll at the film’s end, the Chambers close it out with “Have A Little Faith,” the lead vocal executed perfectly by one, Lester Chambers.

Always a multitasker, Lester currently has multiple projects in motion. His memoirs are slated for publication in time for his 82nd birthday on April 23, 2022. A party and book signing is in the works at the Historic River Theater in Guerneville, California.

Since about 2017 Lester and his son Dylan have been performing as the New Chambers Brothers with the band Full Moonalice. Also lately there have been discussions about a movie script.

Currently, plans are underfoot to place a Blues Trail Marker in Mississippi to honor the birthplace of the Chambers Brothers in Lee County, Mississippi.

Musically, Lester is finishing production on a Jimmy Reed Tribute Album, produced by Andre Jonson and co-produced by Zero Nylin, Former Production Manager for Quincy Jones, McCoy Tyner, and Chick Corea.

Gearwise, Lester Chambers plays Hohner Harmonicas and prefers Sennheiser microphones. For more information on Lester Chambers, visit Performances of the New Chambers Brothers can also be tracked at

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

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8

imageVarious Artists – Chicago/The Blues/Today! Vols. 1, 2 & 3

Vanguard Records

Craft Recordings

3 LP Deluxe Limited Edition

When these seminal albums were initially released in 1966, they helped to ignite the spark that started the transformation of the music heard in funky neighborhood Chicago blues clubs into a respected genre honored around the world. Featuring a number of the undisputed giants of the blues, the tracks provided listeners with music oozing with a primal energy that couldn’t be denied.

The project was the result of efforts by producer Samuel Charters, who managed to convince the owners of Vanguard Records to fund his dream project of recording a number of the blues artists he had been listening to for several years. Listening to these records, there is no question that Charters had an innate understanding of the music, as well as outstanding taste.

Released as part of this year’s Record Store Days promotion, Craft Recordings put together a fine package that treats the music with the respect it deserves. Utilizing analog remastering from the original stereo tapes and cut on 180 gram vinyl, the albums come in a tri-fold package that includes notes from Charters and writer Ed Ward, from a 1999 reissue on Vanguard, that delve into the historical significance of the music, and the efforts that were necessary for Charters to get the project going. Each album is enclosed in a slipcase that features reproductions of the original cover on one side and the original liner notes on the flip side.

The first album alone is worth the price of admission. The opening track, “A Tribute To Sonny Boy Williamson,” features Junior Wells and Buddy Guy, backed by Jack Myers on bass and Fred Below on drums. Wells gives a spoken introduction, then lays down a fitting memorial to one of his mentors. They do a hearty cover of the Wells classic “Messin’ With the Kid” before unleashing a haunting “Vietcong Blues,” as Guy’s jagged guitar runs drive home the leader’s lament over his brother in harm’s arm around the world.

It is a good bet that few listeners back in the day were prepared for what came next. J.B. Hutto and His Hawks – Herman Hassell on bass and Frank Kirkland on drums – tear into “Going Ahead,” then up the ante even further on a frenzied “Please Help,” centered on Hutto’s raw, booming vocals and cutting slide guitar licks over Hassell’s driving bass line. They continue with three more cuts on Side 2, with “Too Much Alcohol” and “That’s The Truth” maintaining the unrelenting energy and performances that surely were a hit in the clubs on a Saturday night.

The final five tracks shine the spotlight on Otis Spann, free from his spot backing Muddy Waters. Backed by S.P Leary on drums, Spann aptly demonstrates his skill on the rollicking instrumental “Marie,” then shows off his vocal talent on the slow blues “Burning Fire”. Another instrumental, S.P. Blues,” finds him interpreting the style of Little Brother Montgomery. He closes things out with more glorious playing in the boogie mode on “Spann’s Stomp”.

Vol. 2 is full of equally memorable performances from the James Cotton Blues Quartet, the Otis Rush Blues Band, plus Homesick James and His Dusters. Cotton, backed by Spann, Leary, and James “Pee wee” Madison on guitar, is in his prime, singing and blowing harp with a vengeance, with nods going to “Love Me Or Leave Me” and particularly “Rocket 88” as examples of his muscular style. His stirring vocal turn on “West Helena Blues” is another highlight’

Possessing one of the finest voices in blues history, Otis Rush had an instantly recognizable sound on guitars well. Backed by a band including Luther Tucker on guitar, Rush starts off with an instrumental, “Everything’s Going To Turn Out Alright,” sparked by Robert Crowder’s alto saxophone solo. An up-tempo cover of “It’s A Mean Old World” gets things rolling. Side 2 opens with a rendition of the classic “I Can’t Quit You Baby, a hallmark of Rush’s career for his soaring vocal. “Rock” is a taut guitar workout, then Rush ends with “It’s My Own Fault,” offering a gripping performance that enlivens the blues standard.

With Willie Dixon on bass and Kirkland once again behind the drum kit, Homesick James Williamson cranks up his slide guitar for four tracks. The spirit certainly moved him on “Dust My Broom” as evidenced by his rousing vocal. “Somebody Been Talkin’ ” utilizes an unusual shuffle rhythm while a cover of Elmore James’ “Set A Date” is a natural fit for Williamson’s slide guitar. The disc closes with the original “So Mean To Me,” with Williamson once again singing with a fierce intensity throughout.

The final volume starts off with six numbers by the Johnny Young Blues Band, with Young on guitar and vocals, Big Walter Horton on harmonica, Hayes Ware on bass, and Elga Edmonds on drums. The power of Young’s voice is a highlight on every track. Horton blows some exemplary harp on “My Black Mare” and “Tighten Up On It”. Young was one of a few blues mandolin players, which he demonstrates on the jaunty run-through of “Stealin’ Back”.Even better is the slow blues shuffle “I Got Mine In Time,” with the lighter sound of the mandolin offering a fitting contrast to Young’s rough vocal.

The Johnny Shines Blues Band opens Side 2. Horton is on harp, Kirkland on drums, Floyd Jones on bass, and the leader on guitar and vocals. Shines was a commanding acoustic blues artist who, like many others, made the transition to the electric blues style once he made it to the big city. Another artist with a big voice, he comes out firing with a rowdy take of “Dynaflow Blues,” playing some slashing slide guitar licks. Horton makes his presence felt right from the jump on “Black Spider Blues,” weaving intricate harp fills around Shines’ vocalizing. Horton’s contributions are equally stellar on “Layin’ Down My Shoes And Clothes,” as Shines attempts to moan and shout his blues away.

Horton takes over the lead for one track, adding “Memphis” Charlie Musselwhite for a harmonica instrumental workout, “Rockin’ Boogie”. Horton is out front, with Musselwhite answering from deep in the mix. Then it is back to Shines for two final original tunes – the grinding “Mr. Boweevil” sans Horton leading into “Hey Hey,” a sturdy shuffle that finishes the album on a high note.

Charters captured all of these artists in their prime, at a time when blues music had not yet moved into the mainstream and began to be diluted by musicians with nothing more than a passing knowledge of the blues traditions, and limited instrumental skills that were offset by bigger amplifiers. All of these artists lived the life, preached the blues. Twelve of them have a spot in the Blues Hall Of Fame, which is further testimony to the significance of these albums then, now, and forever.

Issued in a limited quantity, this set deserves a spot in every blues collection. For LP junkies, it falls into the “must have” category, making it highly recommended!

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 8 

imageRoger Hurricane Wilson  – Live At The Time Out Pub Rockland, Maine

Bluestorm Records

10 songs time – 76:30

The world works in mysterious ways, here it is three years later and I’m reviewing another of Roger Hurricane Wilson’s live CDs. Curiously this one was actually recorded about seven years before the previous one as a tribute to The Time Out Pub for it’s legacy of supporting live acts. With his guitar skills intact he leads a different but just as worthy rhythm section through it’s paces. Two songs appear on both recordings. This CD is mainly a vehicle for his guitar histrionics while his vocal skills are serviceable.

There are three blues cover songs along with the seven Wilson originals. All are played in typical blues-rock fashion while teetering on the edge of straight ahead blues. The two blues stalwarts “Checkin’ Up On My Baby” and “Honey Hush” are given their just due along with the lesser known Willie Dixon-Eddie Boyd tune “Third Degree”.

The songs serve in a large part as a showcase for Roger’s guitar expertise. The instrumental “Tribute To Danny” does just that as he displays various textures of his repertoire. The elongated “Third Degree” and “By My Side” also allow him to stretch out.

As live concerts are still limited, give yourself a dose of what an experience a rockin’ live performance can be. The rhythm section locks in with Roger at every twist and turn. He has lost none of his energy and grit over the years as witnessed by the more recent ‘Live At Madlife’. Plenty of blues-rock energy abounds within. Crank ‘er up for your own rockin’ good time.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

imageTito Jackson  – Under Your Spell

Gulf Coast Records/Hillside Global GCRX9033

11 songs – 41 minutes

After striking gold and platinum with the Jackson 5, Tito Jackson makes his debut as a bluesman at age 67 with this star-laden disc. And for him, believe it or not, it’s a long-awaited return to his first love, the music that colored his world as a child.

Despite dozens of top-selling family albums from the ‘60s onward, this is just his second solo CD following Tito Time, a well-received 2016 R&B release. He’s been primarily working behind the scenes in the industry since he and his brothers went their separate ways in the late ‘80s, serving as a session guitarist, producer and devoting his energy to raising and managing his own musical brood, a trio of sons who hit soul gold in the 2010s as the group 3T.

The Jacksons’ parents, Joe and Katherine, were major blues lovers, too, and played it regularly at home. And Joe fronted his own blues band as a guitarist in Gary, Ind., in the early ‘50s before concentrating on his work in a steel mill before the family’s musical success. In the early years, the Jackson 5 regularly worked blues songs into their act, and Tito has considered himself to a blues artist for the better part of the past 30 years despite his other ventures.

One listen to this CD – which features guest appearances from Kenny Neal, Grady Champion, Joe Bonamassa, George Benson, Eddie Levert, Bobby Rush, Stevie Wonder, Steven Powell, members of the B.B. King Blues Band and B.B.’s daughter Claudette, too – and you’ll understand that he’s a man of his word.

Produced in partnership with Michael K. Jackson, the vocalist who worked as Kurt Jackson in the ‘90s R&B group, Portrait, this disc has the same slick production values folks know and love from the family brand, but the songs it contains are all unhurried, deep-in-the-pocket soul-blues that incorporate stylings of Chicago, Memphis and Mississippi into a seamless package.

Tito shines as both a vocalist and guitarist on this collection, which includes nine originals, a sensationally recrafted cover of one of B.B.’s biggest hits a new tune from Philly Sound founders Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff – possibly their first true blues song ever – and another from Kelvin “KT” Thomas and Rodney “Rocc” Thomas.

The lineup also includes Brandon Adams and Darrell Lavigne (keys), André Britten, Nathan Weber, Wilbert Crosby, Michael Lee and Tyree Neal (guitars), Terrell Griffin, Malcom Turner, Russell B. Jackson and Darnell Neal (bass), Michael Harris and Brandon Jackson (percussion), Jason Parfait, Ian Smith, James “Boogaloo” Bolden, Eric Demmer and Lamar Boulet (horns) and Swoop Brown, Shandra Dixon, Stephen “Ice Buck” Powell and Larry Bolden (backing vocals).

The medium-paced shuffle, “Wheels Keep Turning,” opens the action with horn flourish and serves as Tito’s announcement that he’s come a long way to hook up with “someone like you” – and the blues, too, which he accents through a mid-tune six-string solo. A funky, easy-greasy groove drives home the need for peace and understanding in “Love One Another,” which was released early as a single with Wonder laying down a rock-steady harp run throughout as Tito, Kenny, brother Marlon and Bobby Rush take turns at the vocals.

The love song “I Like It” is up next with Tito telling a lady he likes that he needs “a little taste to get through” because he’s “way past overdue” – a message that continues in “Under Your Spell,” a funky blues that opens with a Bonamassa solo and is built to support a single, repeated vocal hook before yielding to “Dyin Over Here,” a classic soul-blues with romantic overtones that’s perfect for grinding on the dance floor.

The theme continues in the deep blues “Big Leg Woman,” which is aided by Parfait on sax as Jackson describes his desire for a lady who escaped his attention because of a hangover. Then the pace quickens a bit with “You’re Gonna Push Me too Far,” about a troublesome companion who ruins a vacation by complaining and flirting with another man.

“That Kind of Love” serves up a little Southern soul with Champion on harp before Tito joins forces with the King band, Benson and Lee to deliver a refreshing, jazzy arrangement of “Rock Me Baby” – on which Claudette steals the show with her vocals. Two more tunes – Gamble and Huff’s “All in the Family Blues,” a duet with Levert about working together in a family to overcome obstacles and succeed, and the aurally different “I Got Caught (Loving in a Dream),” which pays tribute to Johnnie Taylor and Muddy Waters as it describes the singer’s lady awaking from a reverie in which she saw him in the arms of another woman – bring the disk to a close.

Tito’s greatest desire is to bring his R&B/soul audience back to the blues, and Under Your Spell is a good bet to do it. Strongly recommended.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 8 

imageMission Brown – Brute Force & Ignorance


CD: 10 Songs, 37 Minutes

Styles: “Trainwreck Hillbilly Blues,” Guitar Monster Blues

Greetings from the land down under, the continental embodiment of summer: blazing sun, burning sand, crowd-packed surf and rugged turf. Over all, the spirit of everything wild. That’s the vibe Melbourne’s Mission Brown band brings to their third studio album, Brute Force & Ignorance. Featuring eight original songs and two covers (John Lee Hooker’s “Bottle Up and Go” and “Wolf Like Me” by TV on the Radio), it allows all-caps GUITAR to blast past the music’s other fine qualities (lyrics, vocals, and complementary instrumentation). Is this a bug or a feature? You decide. This three-piece ensemble has plenty of enthusiasm and a bit too much power, like a tablespoon of XXX Calypso Hot Sauce on your favorite grilled meat. At an outdoor festival or barbecue, it’s perfect, but for chilling indoors, you’ll want mellower tunes.

According to their press page, here’s their short bio: “Three-piece cigar box guitar band Mission Brown dishing up juke-joint style live shows across Melbourne town and beyond. Slide guitar, incessant beat and raucous vocals deal with drinking and other hillbilly-ish doings that all add up to a sh*t-kicking barrel of fun. Channeling the past but with a sound of their own.” Here’s their very short bio: “St. Kilda’s Mission Brown are a ‘trainwreck’ hillbilly blues band that will get your feet moving and your beer arm swinging.” True, but yours truly recommends putting down one’s beer before swinging one’s arm.

The band consists of Max Maxey on vocals, guitars, GBG’s and percussion; Gus Kelly on drums, guitars, banjo, CBG’s, vocals and percussion, and James Crosland on bass, guitars, vocals and percussion.

Mission Brown begins its third studio release with a bang-up rendition of “Bottle Up and Go,” paying homage to one of blues’ most hallowed icons. The other cover, “Wolf Like Me,” a rollicking, nearly psychedelic experience, makes up the tail end. In the middle are solid songs such as “Boring Life” (a redundancy in this time of COVID), “Expectations” featuring blues banjo and the growling gravitas of hopes unfulfilled, and “Complain,” which can apply to multiple people at once: partners, bosses, doubters, critics. These three aim to silence them all.

Is this CD your cup of tea? Brute Force & Ignorance is more like a keg of beer. It’s big, bold and guitar-intoxicating.

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 40 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

imageBig Mike Aguirre & The Blu City All Stars – Mississippi Stew

Self Released

11 tracks

St. Louis bluesman Big Mike Aguirre’s debut album recorded in the studio earlier this year comes with a lot of time to practice the new songs. In March of 2020, Aguirre put together a string of shows on the Caribbean island of Anguilla. Mike’s love of the Caribbean drew him to do a short tour there as he’d done for the six years prior. Unfortunately, the pandemic restrictions not only closed down the airport but also ferry service and Mike and his band quarantined on the island with it’s 15,000 residents for nine full months. I could think of far worse places to be stuck than a tropical paradise. They “toughed” it out and came back to the states with a bunch of material which evolved into this new studio album for this 41 year old bluesman, his first in his 20 year career.

Aguirre handles the electric guitar and lead vocals. The Blu-City All-Stars are Andy Coco on bass guitar and vocals, Nathan Hershey on organ, clavinet, Rhodes, keys and vocals and Kevin Bowers on drums and percussion. This quartet is a tight and very hot ensemble of musicians and their three-part harmonies are exceptional. They all hail from St. Louis and it’s deep blues music tradition. Aguirre also adds a three piece horn section to great effect; they are Charlie Cerpa (Tenor), Matt McKeever (Alto) and Derick Tramel (Baritone).

Opening the album is the slick instrumental “Hot Plate.” The organ intro is cool and Aguirre’s guitar work is excellent, a rousing opener. The classic “Stagger Lee” follows, a ramping and fun musical ride with great guitar, keys and vocals. “Be Thankful For What You Got Going” has a funky groove uses the keyboards and organ to provide a big sound and the horn section are superbly intertwined. Aguirre sings with passion and reminds me a little of Boz Skaggs here in this William DeVaughn cut. Up next is “Deal With The Devil” which begins with a big sounding instrumental mash up and then shifts gears to a fast driving beat with gravelly vocals and guitar, horns and organ blazing. “My Dog” is next, a cut where Mike gives us a little funk as he talks about his relationship with dog and how his dog looks him in the eye. There is even some cool trombone thrown in for fun here. “Didn’t I” turns down the heat a bit with a slow, cool, funky ballad done is a slick falsetto, similar to the original by Darondo from the 1970’s but with Big Mike’s stamp on it. Subdued guitar and organ provide the main accompaniment.

“It Won’t Be Long” is a take you to church sort of song with Aguirre testifying with a big organ and horn sound supporting his vocals and guitar. Up next is another swinging tune entitled “Two Out Of Three.” Horns, guitar, piano and hand claps help drive the tune along vibrantly. “Free Yourself” features a big guitar and organ presence along with nice horn work and more great vocals in a rousing song with a heavy beat. “Get Away” continues the high energy pace with another jumping style. Aguirre grinds out the vocals, the band plays with controlled frenzy and the overall sound is delightfully hot and energized. A ringing guitar solo compliments the piece nicely. The album concludes with the title track. The pace is slower and the feel is jazzier as the guitar and piano offer the listener a change of pace from the last few tracks; a pretty and cool instrumental that takes the listener home sweetly.

I was impressed with Aguirre and his band makes. These younger St. Louis musicians are the real deal- they do a wonderful job delivering contemporary blues that grab the listener and won’t let go. Eight originals and three nice covers makes for a special album that I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend!

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 8 

imageLisa Mann – Old Girl

Jay-Ray Records – 2020

There must be a house in Portland, Oregon, that is really rocking as Lisa Mann is married to another bass player, Allen Markel, who tours with Sugaray Rayford amongst others. Born in Virginia and based in the Pacific North West, Lisa has established a good reputation as vocalist, songwriter and bassist across a series of albums since 2010. She won the Blues Blast Sean Costello Award for Rising Star in 2014 and was nominated for a BMA as bassist in 2015 and 2016. Since her last album Hard Times, Bad Decisions in 2016 she has consolidated her reputation with several European tours as well as festivals across the states.

Lisa’s latest offering is just five tracks but they are all excellent and well worth readers’ attention. Lisa wrote four of the songs and tackles a Sister Rosetta Tharpe tune to complete the project on which she is backed by her touring outfit ‘The Really Good Band’: Lisa on bass/vocals, Jason Thomas on guitar and Michael Ballash or Dave Melyan on drums; Louis Pain adds organ to two cuts and Sonny Hess, Brian Foxworth, Larhonda Steele and Arietta Ward add backing vocals to one track.

The title track has a mournful country feel as Lisa bemoans that she is competing in a world where youth is often championed over more mature figures: “I ain’t 24 but I don’t need you to get the door. Most of my days I’m feeling strong and I think I believe I can get along as an old girl”. With some ringing chords from Jason and warm accompaniment from Louis “Old Girl” makes a good start to the EP. The strange title “It’s The Monkeys Or Me” is apparently based on a true story in which girl meets boy and all proceeds well until she gets inside his house in which there are actual monkeys, hence the title as she lays down how the future will be. The amusing lyrics are sung over an upbeat, rocking tune with strong guitar. Lisa takes a wry look at the difficult life of the musician in “Everybody’s Making Money”: “I believe this is the life for me but making music is not easy, you see, everybody’s making money but me”! The cover of Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s 1938 song “That’s All” is probably the track with the highest blues quotient and elicits a fine vocal from Lisa and plenty of solid blues guitar work from Jason.

Saving the best till last “Around Here” pays tribute (anonymously) to musicians who have passed on to the great gig in the sky, the gospel feel accentuated by Louis’ organ and the vocals. The chorus sums up the song’s intentions perfectly: “Around here we revere the ones that came before. We may not know them but they’re our legends for evermore. They may not be pictured in the Rolling Stone magazine but we will remember them always, round here.” Lisa sings beautifully in a soulful style, brilliantly supported by the backing vocalists. Prepare to be moved by this fine song which is more than worth the purchase price of the disc on its own.

A super mini-set which whets the appetite for another full album from Lisa.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8 

imageClint Morgan – Troublemaker

Lost Cause Records

15 songs – 62 minutes

A boogie-woogie piano player who serves as an instructor at the annual Pinetop Perkins Foundation workshops in Clarksdale, Miss., Clint Morgan is a performer who – at first listen – might seem out of place in the blues world because of his countrified accent and somewhat rough-hewn style of delivery, but he’s an immensely gifted songwriter with a unique view of the world.

Produced by Grammy winning producer/multi-instrumentalist Kevin McKendree, Morgan weaves together a spellbinding mix of blues, boogie, rock and roots here that will grab your attention from the opening bars of this hour-long set, which includes guest appearances from several industry heavyweights.

Born and raised on a farm in rural Washington State, Clint grew up in a family that’s originally from southern Appalachia and related through marriage to the Carter family — so much so, in fact, that one of his great aunts was great-granny of A.P. Carter, the country and gospel singer/songwriter who gave birth to the clan.

This is Morgan’s third CD, following You’re Really Bugging Me in 2008 and the critically acclaimed Scofflaw in 2016. Troublemaker was primarily recorded at McKendree’s The Rock House in Franklin, Tenn., as well as Clarksdale, Olympia, Wash., Chandler, Ariz., High Point, N.C., and Houston and Mountain Home, Texas.

The lineup includes Doug Lancio, Jonn Del Toro Richardson, McKendree and Bob Margolin on guitars, David Santos and Tom Pell on bass with Kenneth Blevins on drums. They’re augmented by Bob Corritore on harmonica, Austin Hoke on cello, Robby Shankle on oboe, Jim Hoke on saxes and Jimmy Stewart on fiddle. McKendree also provides work on Hammond organ and Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos, and guest vocalists include the McCrary Sisters (Ann and Regina), Richardson, Margolin, Kinky Friedman and Watermelon Slim.

But the true stars here are Morgan’s lyrics – beginning “Hangman Woman,” a straight-ahead blues that describes a lover locking him in a jail cell, having a “heart like a noose” and “it’ll take a pardon from the governor for her to turn me loose.” An interesting cover of “Go Down, Moses” features the McCrarys before Clint delivers a complaint about aging in “Ain’t That the Blues,” noting that he awakens every couple of hours at night to “suck on a bottle and cry.”

Morgan does justice to Cash’s country classic, “Big River,” next before the percussive “Hungry Man Blues” sings the praises of a lady who treats him like a king, but doesn’t cook a lick. Then Clint gets serious for a spell in the haunting ballad, “Echoes,” which recounts past memories as he longs for lost daughter.

Things brighten momentarily with the cautionary “I’ll Love You If I Want To,” which warns: “You can’t tell me what to do,” before “It’s Rough Out Here,” moans about dissatisfaction with his family and job — but insists he’s going to keep on going – and another in the clever rocker “She Take My Money” before the tongue-in-cheek “Too Rich to Sing the Blues,” in which Morgan describes being able to sing like Lightnin’ Hopkins but spends like Howard Hughes.

The country blues “Hurricane Harvey” features stellar work from Richardson on slide before Clint trades verses with Friedman on the plaintive complaint, “Somebody Put a Walmart on My Farm,” then uses Shel Siliverstein’s “Cover of Rolling Stone” and turns it into “The Cover of Living Blues,” aided by Margolin and Watermelon Slim. The disc ends with “The Troublemaker,” once a hit for Nelson, and a bonus-cut reinterpretation of “Living Blues” as only he can.

Clint Morgan’s vocal delivery might remind you of a young Johnny or Willie, but give him a chance. He’s blue to the bone – and clev

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 – 8 of 8 

imageTom Buenger – Suburban Gospel

Self Released

10 tracks

This is West Coast solo musician Tom Buenger’s debut album. Tom Buenger plays acoustic guitar, bass, harmonica, and handles the lead vocals. He is accompanied by Teresa Russell and Rafael Tranquilino on electric guitar, they do a fine job in support and on backing vocals. Buenger sings in a natural and head voice to interesting effect. He uses the vocal switchovers to accentuate the mood in these all-original songs that he wrote. The album is different and grows and grow on the listener as you move through the cuts. The songs are timely and interesting and he and the two accompanying musicians work well together.

“Trouble Be Gone” is a solo cut with acoustic guitar and whistling that later adds harp, hand claps and backing vocals. It’s got a nice groove and it’s well done. Next is “A Bad Dream” with haunting slide and backing vocals on top of Buenger’s performance about this bad dream (which is life today). There is some stuff here that is different and quite compelling. “Rise Above” begins with a down ho me feel. It transitions to call and response and nice harp that builds and then finishes cleanly. “Breakdown” follows, a cut with gutsy vocals and backup and a simple acoustic guitar. The mood is dark and the overall feel is tribal. The electric guitar comes in after some hand clapping to good effect as the song builds and builds in swirls of confusion and emulation of a breakdown; the abrupt ending is also slick. “Butter My Bread” begins with harp and howling vocals and then the slide comes in as Buenger continues to moan and howl with gusto.

“Deliver” opens the second half of the songs. It also begins simply and then some very emotive slide and backing vocals add to the mood. It’s a dark and somber feeling cut about unrequited love. “Girl On Fire” is a love song that begins simply and builds a bit. Acoustic guitar and maraca start with Buenger’s lead and then again the electric guitar and backing vocals add to the mix to beef up support. “Change” follows and the song describes the inevitability of change. The songs begins with the vocal support upfront; the vocals are really cool and the harp is well done here, too, as Buenger sings with passion. “Here With You” is a slick cut as Buenger describes how happy he is with his woman; he wants to marry her and go off and do great things together. He sets a nice groove on his acoustic guitar and layers in some tasteful harp beginning mid cut. It’s a bit funky and well done overall. The final track starts as a quiet and somber tune with guitar and harp as Buenger sings with this ballad with nice pacing and emotion. It almost feels like a down homey/cowboy sing but it’s not, it’s just a simple and effective acoustic ballad.

As I said, the album grows on you. At first I started to wonder why he uses his head voice so much, but then the effect he’s trying to have on the listener becomes evident. He’s a very decent singer and he and the backing singers do a great job with call and response, harmonizing, and just doing some fine work together. I enjoyed the CD and I think it’s well worth consideration for addition to your collection; you won’t be disappointed. It’s also a really well done debut album for this great young artist.

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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