Issue 15-31 August 5, 2021

Cover photo © 2021 Laura Carbone

 In This Issue 

Marty Gunther has our feature interview with young Blues star Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. We have eight Blues reviews for you this week including a new book from Chris Thomas King plus new music from Casey Bill Weldon, Laino & Broken Seeds, BC Hudson, J.T. Lauritsen, George Porter Jr. & Runnin’ Pardners, Mattias Malm and Steve Lukather & Edgar Winter.

 From The Editor’s Desk 


Hey Blues Fans,

Have you voted yet? The 2021 Blues Blast Music Awards voting remains open until Midnight CDT tomorrow, August 6th, 2021

Don’t miss the chance to vote for your favorite Blues artists and music! Click HERE to vote NOW!

(You may only vote once.)

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser


 Featured Interview – Christone “Kingfish” Ingram 

imageNo star has shined brighter in blues heaven in the past two years than Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. A one-man wrecking crew in a world crippled by COVID-19, he’s proven himself to be a giant among men at the tender age of 22, compiling seven Blues Music Awards and a Grammy nomination along the way.

The defining bluesman of his generation because of his extraordinary, precise attack on guitar and the ability to shift his music from a whisper to a hurricane in a few short notes and sear listeners to the core and an emotive, soulful voice to match, it’s almost certain that he’s headed for even greater success.

But don’t believe for an instant that Kingfish is resting on his laurels and enjoying his accomplishments while the world struggles to set itself in motion again after grinding to a halt. In the midst of all the blessings he’s received, he’s been suffering, too – experiencing loses no man his age should be forced to endure. His life has been a major roller-coaster ride filled with exceptionally high highs and deeply painful lows, having lost his beloved mother and guiding light in the midst of it all.

“It’s been bittersweet, as you can see,” he told Blues Blast in a recent interview. “But I’m just grateful for all the love and support people have given me thus far. And, like they say, it’s only up from here!”

But there’s still time for plenty of chuckles – as demonstrated when asked where he’s keeping all of the trophies now filling his home.

“Some’s goin’ on my TV, man,” he replied after a deep belly laugh. “But I actually got a few sittin’ on top of one of my amps. I really haven’t thought much about where should I put ‘em all ‘cause I don’t have anywhere to put ‘em! My amp is already gettin’ too small. It can hold five, but these seven is givin’ me a problem!

“All in all, though, I’m truly grateful because I never thought that all of this would come to me – not this early, for sure.”

At the rate he’s compiling them, it’d probably be a good idea to devise a plan soon.

Born Jan. 19, 1999, in the belly of the blues — Clarksdale, Miss., Kingfish grew up in a family that performed regularly in church. Both his mom, Princess Pride, and an uncle were multi-instrumentalists, and her first cousin was Charlie Pride, the first black superstar in country music, who dominated the airwaves in the ‘60s through the ‘80s with chart-toppers that included “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’” and “(I’m So) Afraid of Losin’ You Again.”

Christone fell in love with music when his dad, Christopher, invited him to watch Muddy Waters: Can’t Be Satisfied, a PBS special that aired for the first time when he was four years old. He was drawn to the blues through Muddy’s fretwork on “Catfish Blues” – a/k/a “Rollin’ Stone” – and the guitar from an appearance by B.B. King on Sanford & Son when he played “How Blue Can You Get.”

“The sound of his voice, man…the way he was hittin’ the strings…the vibrato…it was amazin’,” Kingfish remembers. Only a few days prior, he’d been on center stage himself playing tribute to the master at dedication festivities for the new wing at the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola.

imageAnother major influence who drew Ingram to the guitar was Eddie Hazel of Parliament-Funkadelic – especially his soaring runs on the tune, “Maggot Brain,” which many critics consider to be one of the most important solos ever – no matter the instrument involved. And Eric Gales colored his world, too, because of his blues-rock vibe – something that Christone found unusual because Eric was both black like him and from the Mid-South.

Kingfish picked up the drums at age six and turned to the bass at age nine when he started attending a music program at the nearby Delta Blues Museum. He credits his ability to stay firmly in the pocket today with the discipline he developed on those rhythm instruments.

He graduated to first guitar at age 11, studying under the direction of blues masters Bill “Howl-n-Madd” Perry and Richard “Daddy Rich” Chisman. A quick study, almost instantaneously, he developed a skill to play everything from Lightnin’ Hopkins and Robert Johnson to B.B. and Muddy Waters to Jimi Hendrix, Prince and more.

Perry often lays nicknames on his students, and pinned Kingfish on Ingram, borrowing the moniker from the old Amos & Andy radio and TV shows because the youngster reminded him of the character portrayed by actor Tim Moore, a born organizer and wheeler-dealer authoritarian who hounded wayward members of the Mystic Knights lodge and kept them in line.

Newly anointed, Kingfish made his performing debut on bass, backing Perry at Red’s Lounge in downtown Clarksdale and all of the top venues in the city — Ground Zero Blues Club, the Shack-Up Inn, the Delta Blues Room and the New Roxy included. And, almost overnight, he built up a following on YouTube after former Parliament-Funkadelic and James Brown bassist Bootsy Collins discovered them and started sharing them with his fan base around the globe.

Throughout his childhood, Ingram also attended the annual Pinetop Perkins Workshops, a training ground that offers scholarships to blues talent between ages 12 and 21 for instructional programs coordinated by Bob Margolin. And Kingfish credits his with driving home the importance that soloists make a statement with their instruments and builds their runs through the use of dynamics rather than hitting their audiences full force from the start.

Even though he was a child protégé who appeared on the Steve Harvey and Rachel Ray TV shows, Christone’s classmates couldn’t understand his love for the blues instead of rap and hip-hop. They thought it was funny, he says, because he was young, but listening and playing “old, sad stuff.”

“I’m like…’man, I ain’t like that,’” he remembers. “’I’m listenin’ more for a culture thing! This is history. And rap is nothin’ but the blues’ grandchild!’”

Kingfish doesn’t shy away from that fact that he was somewhat a shredder early on. Margolin and “other OGs” eventually lead him to understand the concept that “less” is often more effective than “more” when it comes to the blues.

“That’s a big thing,” Christone says today. “You can’t just lay it on ‘em. Even I’ve gotten to the point these days where, if I go into a club and the guitar player’s playin’ like a thousand notes a minute every song…it does kinda play in your ears a little bit.

image“In the last couple of years, I feel like I’ve learned how to balance it…playin’ the song and shreddin’, too. You can feel the energy from that. But at the end of the night, there has to be a balance for the audience to feel somethin’.

“Certain songs call for that, and certain songs don’t. If you’re gonna play the ‘lowdown blues’ like Buddy Guy calls it, you’d better put some space in it!”

The equilibrium he’s achieved in that area also contributes to his ability to remain centered and humble despite all of his acclaim. “I still try to obtain knowledge from people that are better than me,” he insists, “and study things that are gonna make me better ‘cause no matter how much praise you get, there’s always someone around the corner who doesn’t have that spot.”

Like the old days in the Wild West, there’s an eight-year-old guitar slinger out there somewhere getting ready to take him on.

“It’s better to understand that, one day, it could all be taken away. I try to keep that in the back of my mind a lot. History repeats itself,” he laughs. “But it’s really good to see all those young kids comin’ up! Some of the old guys might be annoyed by it.

“But if I see a young kid who’s interested in this music, I think it’s a better idea to take him under my wing and show him what I know. It’s important to keep the ball rollin’ and be determined…to know that every show isn’t gonna be perfect because of backline, because the sound’s off a little or whatever.”

Kingfish played at the White House for Michele Obama at age 15, and has toured with Vampire Weekend, Jason Isbell and Guy, recorded with him, Gales, Keb’ Mo’ and Bootsy, too. Described as a “young bluesman with an ancient soul,” he was playing major festivals around the world constantly for 18 months, touring to support his debut 2019 CD, the eponymous Kingfish on Alligator.

An instant hit, it debuted in the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s blues charts and remained on the board for 91 consecutive weeks. Initiated through the help of Buddy and supervised by his award-winning producer, Tom Hambridge, it won a Blue Blast Music Award, earned a Grammy nomination and was cited by both Living Blues magazine in the U.S. and MOJO magazine in Britain as their album of the year. A duet with Guy entitled “Fresh Out” was the year’s No. 1-played song on Sirius/FM.

For Christone, it was a real learning experience. Not only was it his first attempt at writing and recording original tunes, he recorded the CD in only three days. And, despite its success, he was left with the feeling that he’d rushed some things and that it would have turned out even better if he’d slowed down a bit.

But as happy as he was at the time, he entire world crashed around him beginning that December when his beloved mother, biggest supporter and lifelong manager, Princess, succumbed at age 49 to the medical issues that plagued her for years. The support of friends and family and his ability to perform helped ease his unfathomable sorrow. But then COVID-19 took that away, too.

imageIngram slowly managed to find his center again during the lockdown, releasing a couple of stand-alone singles – a cover of Michael Burks’ tune, “Empty Promises,” and his first-ever holiday song, “Ghost from Christmas Past.” And he made a guest appearance on Blues Traveler’s new CD, Traveler’s Blues, too.

Another think that helped is a project he initiated with good friends Marquise Knox and Jontavious Willis: the “Robert Johnson Challenge” on Facebook, on which they took turns and put their own spins on several of the 28 tunes Johnson recorded in the ‘20s. The event endured for months, keeping the trio busy and amused while delivering joy in small doses to blues lovers around the world.

“What happened was…when the new picture of Robert Johnson came out (there are only three genuine photos in existence) and his sister’s book (Brother Robert: Growing Up with Robert Johnson) came out, we kinda had a discussion that he was cool that we were finally seein’ him in true life rather than the old, mythical character that they portray him to be,” Ingram says.

“We wanted to pay our homage to him, and it was a really fun thing ‘cause I come from that (country blues) style, livin’ in the North Mississippi Delta. It’s my music, but I hardly ever get to play it now. It was great to be playin’ all those old country and Delta blues styles – and Marquise and Quon, those are my brothas!

“We’re tryin’ to show that there are young black kids who love their culture and love their history, man. I’ve very appreciative, and love ‘em both.”

Drawing other young people of color back to the blues is one of the most important forces that drive his life, Kingfish says. “When I was comin’ up in the Delta blues, I know that almost all of the kids I was seein’ playin’ the blues were white. There was only a couple of blacks that I looked up to…Homemade Jams out of Tupelo, Miss., Marquise – I was lookin’ up to him for years before I even met him – and the Peterson brothers outta Texas.

“But there’s been a resurgence in the past couple of years. The young black representation is back. We’ve got Steven Hull out of Wisconsin, Dkieran Harrell (a native of Rustin, La., who’s a discipline of B.B. and played alongside Kingfish at the Indianola festivities) and others.

“It’s really surgin’, and I’m lovin’ it!”

As spring evolved into summer, however, Christone’s primary focus became prep work for what’s now his new CD, 662. A follow-up to his debut on Alligator, Hambridge returned to produce, and it was recorded at his studio outside Nashville with a lineup that includes Chicago-based keyboard player Marty Sammon and many of the same Music City sessions players who appeared on the first disc. The title is adopted from the area code of Clarkdale and North Mississippi.

“From May through September, me, Tom and Richard Fleming did this Zoom thing every Thursday where we’d pretty much write the songs and pull ‘em out for sho’,” Kingfish says. “Working with guys from Nashville and seein’ how quick they pick up the music and work hard was really cool to see, and a great education, too.”

imageDespite the continuity of personnel, the end product is aurally different than his debut. It contains material that pays tribute to both Clarksdale and Princess, but deals heavily with the bottom side of human emotion looking up rather than looking down from the heights of success – especially when it comes to failed love affairs.

And, unfortunately, he admits, some of the themes of heartbreak and broken romance come from true-life experience.

“Yeah, man!” he laughs. “You gotta get it outta your system. And as far as all the songs go, I was just tryin’ to show the growth in my life and everything I’ve been going through in the last two years or so. Love songs aren’t necessarily the biggest thing, but they’re definitely one of the reoccurring topics for sho’!”

Like the subject matter, Ingram’s attack on guitar on this one is more mature and hard-hitting, too. “On the first record, in my opinion, I didn’t hold anything back,” Kingfish insists, “but (at the same time) I did play a little restrained because it was my first time and I didn’t want to overwhelm the listener.

“But when I was talkin’ with my manager, Ric Whitney, and my producer, Tom, we decided we really wanted to sock it and give it to ‘em. We knew it’d be a change-of-pace. We have a couple of songs with more of a hard (rock) edge, but even the acoustic songs have that intense feel to ‘em, too.”

From the opening bars of the title track, “662,” Ingram delivers universal truths that belie his tender age throughout. That song paints a loving picture of Clarksdale, as does “Too Young to Remember,” which remembers the juke joints across Mississippi that have all but faded into memory, and “Something in the Dirt,” which pays tribute to the city’s contributions to the world.

In addition to the love songs, other material includes “Rock & Roll,” which released as a single prior to the CD and honors his mom, “Another Life Goes By,” a politically charged complaint about hate, madness and killings, and “That’s What You Do,” which advises other musicians that there are no shortcuts to the blues.

And like Kingfish’s debut effort, this one’s already climbed into upper echelon on the charts. He’s grateful for all the love and support he’s received along the way – and especially in the past year or so.

“With my mother’s death and bein’ off the road because of COVID, it means a lot to me that people are still listenin’ to my music, buyin’ my merch and everything,” he says. “I can’t wait to get out there and see everybody again and show everybody the growth I’ve made over the past few years.

“The big question for me right now is how I’m gonna follow up on this one. But I think we’ll find a way to one-up it!”

Christone had just finished a tour of the Northeast prior to this interview, and already has gigs booked in most areas across the U.S. for the balance of the year, including the Big Blues Bender in Las Vegas in September.

Check out Kingfish’s new music and find out where he’ll be appearing next by visiting his website:

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 – 1 of 8

imageCasey Bill Weldon – We Gonna Move (to the Outskirts of Town)

Wolf Records BC014

24 songs – 76 minutes

One of the most enigmatic artists the formative years of the blues, Casey Bill Weldon has gone down in history as the best lap steel and Hawaiian- style guitarist of the pre-War era, and he gets to live once more through this reissue of the best 24 tracks he recorded in the 1930s.

He’s often confused with Will Weldon, the similarly named musician who was a member of the Memphis Jug Band, was possibly married at one time to Memphis Minnie and died at age 28 in 1934. As researched by Jim O’Neal, co-founder of Living Blues magazine, this Weldon is believed to have been born Nathan Hammond on Feb. 2, 1901, in Chanute, Kan., and adopted his stage name prior to his first recording sessions in 1935, which included work with Minnie, Peetie Wheatstraw, Teddy Darby and others.

Weldon also served as a member of the Hokum Boys, the Washboard Rhythm Kings and Arnett Nelson & His Hot Four, but never recorded again after the ‘30s. His remaining life is shrouded in mystery. A photo of him alongside guitarist Charles Church appeared in the Chicago Defender in 1941, and one of his contemporaries, Ted Bogan, reported that Casey Bill lived for years in Detroit and that he’d seen him in 1968 in Chicago. Weldon reportedly died in Kansas City on Sept. 28, 1972.

Despite the questions about his life, it’s certain that he was a pleasant tenor who was an exceptionally gifted guitarist and songwriter. He recorded all of the tracks here in Chicago between March 1935 and December 1938 with accompaniment from some of the most important bluesmen of his generation. Portions of the superstar lineup include Wheatstraw and Black Bob on piano and probably include young Big Bill Broonzy on guitar, Charlie McCoy on mandolin and either Blind John Davis or Joshua Altheimer on keys, too, with Ransom Knowling and Bill Settles on bass.

From the opening bars of “Doctor’s Blues” to the closing notes of “Sales Lady,” the quality of this album – the 14th edition in Austria-based Wolf Records’ Blues Classics releases — is stellar with just the slightest hints scratches carried over from the original acetates, but most are crisp and clean. The great majority of Weldon’s solo work is included along with one tune that hasn’t seen the light of day since it was recorded.

Other highlights here include seminal recordings of his best-known tunes, “Somebody Changed the Lock on My Door” and “We Gonna Move (to the Outskirts of Town)” – as well as “What’s the Matter with My Milk Cow,” “WPA Blues,” “Let Me Be Your Butcher,” “Somebodys Got to Go,” “I’se Just a Bad Luck Man,” “Streamline Woman,” “I Believe, I Will Make a Change,” “Oh Red” and “Give Me Another Shot.”

If you’re a fan of first-generation blues, turn back the clock for a while and give this one a spin. You’ll be happy you did!

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 8 

imageLaino & Broken Seeds – Sick To The Bone

Off Label Records – 2020

8 tracks; 32 minutes

This band comes from Bologna, Italy and this is their second album, following an initial EP in 2014. Guitarist and songwriter Andrea Laino leads the band which includes Gaetano “Kaimano” Alfonsi on drums and percussion and Salvatore “Messico” Lauriola on electric bass; Andrea handles the vocals on all bar one track and Hammond organ is added to one cut by Paolo ‘Pee Wee’ Durante. Andrea was inspired to take the blues road after a visit to a New York club and returned to his native Italy with a notebook of ideas which he initially performed on resonator guitar on the streets of Bologna.

Andrea handles the vocals on most of this all-original outing. The one exception is “Winanta” on which singer and lyricist AfnoRock joins the band; apparently a song in support of a Moroccan journalist, the chunky guitar riff and pounding drums sound fine but the lyrics remained unintelligible, even after several listens, to the extent that I was unsure which language was being used! The other tracks are easier to understand, as Andrea’s vocals are reasonably clear and he sings with only a slight trace of accent, making the songs accessible to an anglophone audience. The overall style is a blend of slide guitar and, on most tracks, heavy rhythms, the feel of the music taking you back to the late 60’s/early 70’s. Opening track “Spells And Magic” tears out of the blocks with lashings of slide over booming bass and lively drums as Andrea tries to keep his feet on the ground despite all that is going on around him. “Way Up Above” slows the pace a little with lots of percussion effects behind the slide and lyrics that seemed pretty opaque to these ears. “Sick To The Bone” is clearer in intent as Andrea sings of his frustrations over a busy, country-tinged rhythm with the slide in mellow mode. Lyrically, things get a little weird in “Lost Dead Island”, a place of which Andrea had heard tell but did not quite believe, this all at odds with the rather cheerful music!

The core riff on “Sleepthinkers” would not have sounded out of place on a Led Zep album and Andrea double-tracks his slide over that very effectively, so it’s an attractive tune but again not very clear in its lyrical intentions. No such problems with “Singin’ The Blues Around Booze”, the addition of the Hammond seeming to liberate Andrea who gives us his strongest slide playing here on a song that one assumes is autobiographical. The album closes with “Music Makes You High”, a little more stripped-back, semi-acoustic, tune with percussion to the fore and slide work in a country blues style, nicely done, and probably the track that comes closest to a straight blues.

At just 32 minutes this is arguably more of an EP than a full album and not all the tracks will appeal to everyone, but there are certainly aspects of the music that will. Give it a listen, you can find it on Bandcamp and the full album can also be heard on YouTube.

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 – 3 of 8 

imageBC Hudson – Wash My Soul

Hudson Network Music

11 songs – 43 minutes

A guitarist/vocalist who’s been performing in northeastern Ohio since the ‘60s, BC Hudson’s most recent album, Jaded Heart, was a solo effort that represented the Blues Society of Western Pennsylvania in the 2019 International Blues Challenge competition. This all-original follow-up follows the same format with a helping hand from several friends.

Primarily a songwriter/studio musician, this is only the third CD in Hudson’s career, which has included performances at the Kent, Canton and Creekside blues and jazz festivals. He mixes acoustic and electric guitar and doubles on bass here as he delivers tunes that are both highly percussive and hypnotic throughout.

Percussionist Jack Lavender backs BC throughout with guest appearances from Wayne Leach and Danny Gerald on harp, Dan Socha and Daryl Rowland – each of whom sit in on lead guitar for a single cut, Ilene Weisberg and Virginia King on djembe and Bethany Joy on backing vocals.

A syncopated, medium-paced shuffle beat accompanies a Hudson guitar run kick in to open “My Motor Is Running” before Leach joins the action and BC describes driving all alone on the highway as he chases the setting sun. It’s an interesting number, but fails flat, crippled by often discordant harp runs that are high in the mix.

Hudson lopes out of the gate with a multi-layered six-string attack in “Get on Home,” a driving blues that questions why a lady’s refusing to call after spending all of the day and most of the night away. It flows into the ballad “Takin’ Too Much Time,” which continues the theme forward as he stresses he’s a good provider who works his fingers to the bone.

Resignation and release set in with “I Can’t Feel Your Pain,” a slow blues that describes the lady who lives her life in solitary on a one-way street and stuffing her emotions wherever she goes. Rowland’s work on the reeds amplifies BC’s suffering throughout. The mood brightens somewhat in “I Won’t Be Subjugated,” another slow number that rises above everything that comes before. It features Joy and Socha and clever lyrics that include: “My head runs fast/My feet are slow/My heart is racing, don’t you know/I’m trying to get to my destination.”

The minor blues, “Comfortable in Quicksand,” describes the realization that the love Hudson thought he was enjoying was nothing more than being taken for a ride into the desert and now he has nowhere else to go. The tempo quickens for the easily forgettable instrumental, “Harpman Blues,” despite BC’s fretwork before “Random Rantin’ Blues” brightens the mood with an accented beat and powerful guitar lines despite the series of disjointed complaints contained in the lyrics.

The bad news continues and comes without warning in the ballad “Down At Home” before Rowland takes the lead for “Working So Hard,” in which Hudson admits he’s a prisoner of love and has lost his way. The album closes with “From the Rooftop” and BC releasing his feelings by shouting about how his woman had done him no good.

There’s no question that Hudson’s Wash My Soul delivers what the title claims. It’s interesting throughout despite its drawbacks, but will have listeners praying for better times for him ahead.

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 

imageJT Lauritsen and the Buckshot Hunters – Blue Eyed Soul Vol. 2

Hunters Records

CD: 11 Songs, 41 Minutes

Styles: Jazz-and-Soul-Influenced Blues, Ensemble Blues

Listen up, all you cravers of sizzling soul blues. I’m going to let you in on a personal trade secret: When the music’s as good as it is on Blue Eyed Soul Vol. 2, from Norway’s JT Lauritsen and the Buckshot Hunters, the album review writes itself. Ergo, my ego will let my id drive for the rest of this column. Prepare for a surefire winner, because this 11-song CD wins gold medals in energy, tonal and instrumental balance, vocal clarity, and all-around pep. If 2021’s got you down in the dumps even though it’s late summer and the Olympics are on, fear not. Jan Tore (JT) and company will help you over such a hurdle faster than Karsten Warholm can run 400M hurdles! Consisting of nine original songs and two covers (Don Robey’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry” and Monika Nordli’s “I’ll Carry the Key”), it combines grit and good vibes in equal measure.

As any Olympian knows, it’s difficult to top one’s previous efforts. Lauritsen and the Buckshot Hunters’ previous installment, Spellmann-nominated Blue Eyed Soul Volume 1, earned high marks from yours truly in 2018. On Volume 2, the band has delved deeper into their personal and collective soul, finding more rawness and the angst that innately comes with the genre. They’ve been working steadily and have found a more homogeneous soundscape. Børge-Are S. Halvorsen and Jens Petter Antonsen have delivered strong arrangements on all the songs, contributing to a powerful sound. This year, they celebrated their 25th anniversary, and their ninth album is a terrific indicator of their position in the Norwegian blues scene. Ms. Wetnight wishes they were more well-known in the US, but Sirius XM and this magazine aim to fix that.

Alongside J.T. (vocals, accordion, harmonica and Hammond B3 organ) are the rest of the Buckshot Hunters: Arnfinn Tørrisen and Frederick Johannessen on guitars; Jon Grimsby on drums and percussion, and Morten Nordskaug on bass and backing vocals. Special guest stars include Bill Troiani and Hans Cato Kristiansen on vocals; Victor Wainwright on piano; Mike Zito on guitar; Børge-Are S. Halvorsen on baritone and alto sax, and Jens Petter Antonsen on trumpet and trombone.

People get leveled by the doldrums all the time, but as the first song on this CD posits, “Blues Never Feel That Bad.” The musical equivalent of your favorite beer or effervescent beverage, it invites you to soar to the stratosphere. “Hold You One More Time,” a sly shuffle, adds a little lust to the proceedings. Grab a partner and dance while you can, because this one clocks in at an all-too-brief 3:37. The Hunters’ rendition of “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry” might make you weep for joy, and a “Friday Night Ride” is exhilarating, especially when it comes to Victor Wainwright’s flawless piano. Want a sing-along hit? Try “Like You Do,” starring Mike Zito. “I’ll Carry the Key” carries a message of hope to one and all, and “Woman in my Life” a perennial homage to romance. Every song is a podium contender – no falls, misses, or duds.

Have you been waiting for a sequel that might be better than the original? Make like Usain Bolt and get your hands on Blue Eyed Soul Vol. 2 in a hurry!

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 

imageGeorge Porter Jr. & Runnin’ Pardners – Crying for Hope

Controlled Substance Sound Labs – 2021

12 tracks; 48:23

George Porter Jr. is best known as the bassist for The Meters, the legendary New Orleans funk band. On Crying for Hope, an album made with his band, Runnin’ Pardners, Porter creates a wide-ranging musical experience that is funk-centric with plenty of stops in jazz and rock, every track steeped in the soulfulness of the blues.

Porter divides the mostly instrumental album into three sides, a funny nod to the vestiges of vinyl and their limitation for implementing odd-numbered concepts. The sides are usually a vocal track followed by instrumentals, making Crying for Hope feel like albums within albums. When you think of three sides, you think of a triangle. You often see triangles in construction, from bridges to the pyramids, because they’re such a strong shape. And Crying for Hope is a strong, three-sided album.

Side A begins with the title track, a cool, funky tune weighing in on the state of a world that features lots of talking, but not much listening: “People are saying lots of words / Saying all the wrong things.” The slow groove moves the tune along, organ swells and scratchy guitar reinforcing Porter’s bass, which is the song’s foundation. Porter’s vocals are earnest if not powerful, making them pair well with the lyrics.

Side A continues with some jazzy instrumentals, with “Porter 13A” led by beautiful piano from Michael H. Hemmler. “A Ladder,” enhanced by liquid-like guitar from Chris Adkins, isn’t a pure instrumental, since it has call-and-response vocal chanting, but Porter and his band root the gorgeous song in the interplay of the instruments, rather than a lyrical hook.

Side B is more funk-centered, which is saying something given how much funk is on the album. The side deceptively starts with “I’m Barely,” a 60s pop tune that’s light and bouncy, the kind of track you could imagine George Harrison covering. Porter’s voice has a weariness, but as with “Crying for Hope,” it works for the song, this time balancing out the song’s youthful-sounding joy against the weight of Porter’s life experiences.

From “I’m Barely,” the side goes wild, with tunes whose titles tell you everything you need to know. “Cloud Funk” relies on a propulsive guitar riff, a la Sly and the Family Stone, while “Wanna Get Funky” is bombastic. And “Spanish Moss” spotlights a catchy bass lick and angular guitar that, when placed with Hemmler’s keyboard swells, makes for a style best described as heartfelt prog-rock.

The album concludes on a rock and roll note, with more vocal-oriented songs. “Too Hot Too Cold” is a gentle ballad. While the keyboard here gives the track an 80s sound, the melodies are lovely. And “You Just Got Tired” feels like the Rolling Stones at their best, Porter and his band using an almost country beat, augmented by sweet slide guitar and mournful piano.

It’s tempting to call “You Just Got Tired” the album’s best track, but once the album starts from the beginning again (another thing vinyl didn’t do very well), you realize that most of the album is in contention. Funk fans will, of course, enjoy Crying for Hope, but the album contains a lot of great moments that will appeal to anyone who loves well-executed music that emerges from honest emotion. Porter and Runnin’ Pardners have taken the best of many styles and crafted a three-sided album that has the structural strength of the mighty triangle.

Reviewer Steven Ovadia writes about music and technology. You can see more of his music writing at

 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

imageChris Thomas King – The Blues: The Authentic Narrative Of My Music And Culture

Chicago Review Press

400 pages – Hardcover edition

It is a bit bewildering at times these days as the status quo in many areas has been questioned seemingly at every turn. For some, this questioning of long-held beliefs is unnerving, leading to strong emotional reactions. For others, issues like racism demand immediate and definitive action, along with equally passionate emotional investments.

In the blues community, Adam Gussow’s recent work, Whose Blues?, delved into the white influence on a music that sprang from a black culture, rooted in a system of slavery. The author offers up compelling points on both sides, giving credence to claims by a number of black musicians and writers that the music is rightfully theirs, and theirs alone, then examining where the music might be without the support and participation of white fans and musicians.

Blues artist Chris Thomas King expands the discussion even further in his new book. The son of Baton Rouge legend Tabby Thomas, King grew up surrounded by the music his father played, and later the blues he heard at his dad’s club, Tabby’s Blues Box and Heritage Hall, a funky club that anchored the local blues community for several decades until falling victim to urban redevelopment. King has had his own successful career, with over twenty recordings in his name as well as starring roles in the big screen motion pictures O Brother, Where Art Thou (playing Tommy Johnson), and Ray (as Lowell Fulson).

His contention is that blues music came into being in New Orleans, well before the Mississippi Delta region had been tamed by the US Army Corps of Engineers. King makes his case that trumpeters Buddy Bolden and King Oliver, along with the esteemed piano man Jelly Roll Morton, were playing the blues in the early 1900’s. The author takes exception to the “Father of the Blues” title bestowed on W.C. Handy, an honor that King argues overlooks the contributions of a host of New Orleans musicians.

One point of contention that he brings up throughout the book is that the “myth” that blue music sprang from the Delta became basis for the “white blues mafia,” a group of record collectors and music industry insiders who created the Delta narrative to highlight the “rediscoveries” of artists like Son House and Rev. Gary Davis. This narrative favored raw, more primitive musicians playing music that was born on the back of slavery. King refutes that line of thinking as it devalues the contributions of Lonnie Johnson, one of the finest guitarist of all time, with a sophisticated style that far too advanced and lacking in primal energy. Yet Johnson, born in New Orleans, started recording in 1925, well before many of the country blues artists had their chance.

In setting up his premise, King guides readers through a well-researched history of slavery and its impact in the US as well as Caribbean nations. He notes on page 6…”To justify the rise of barbarism toward Black human beings, a racist ideology began to coalesce among elite colonists in the New World in the sixteenth century,,,,a new “White” political class emerged, in part to divide unfree labor.” Later he lays out a withering dissection of the rise of the French colony of Haiti, the largest producer of sugar bound for European countries. “Sugar was “white gold”: an addictive and unquenchable drug…Sugar ignited the Atlantic slave trade…There is nothing patriotic or noble about sacrificing a person’s limbs or life simply for a decadent pleasure commodity for royals and elites”.

King weaves his treatise through time, adding discussions on his perceived key points including the influence on the music by the all-white Original Dixieland Jass Band, how Johnson impacted the work of Bob Dylan, and how black record producer Tom Wilson ignited Dylan’s career by expanding the singer’s sound, as well as the impact of writers like Zora Neale Hurston on solidifying the standard blues primitive story line.

Half way through, King switches gears to tell his own personal story, taking readers from his childhood through the various phases of his career. He started on the cornet, encouraged by his uncle who played in the marching band. But it wasn’t long before the guitar captured his imagination. As he relates, “But I lost interest in the cornet as my chops and reputation on the guitar grew. The guitar made a lot of a lot of racket….the guitar had become the loudest and most popular instrument in modern music”.

Readers will certainly enjoy his reminiscing about his Hollywood experiences in addition to the ebb and flow of his career, including details on the times he himself has run afoul with the “blues mafia,” particularly for his efforts to meld blues with hip-hop musical influences, raising issues about respecting traditions, which makes King wonder, who’s traditions?

The other theme that winds trough this work is the complicated relationship that King had with his father. Despite his success, the son often felt marginalized by Tabby, often having his ideas rejected out of hand. When the powers that be started making noise about closing the Blues Box, King rallied the troops to try and save the day. In the end, “progress” won out, but King clearly understood the importance of the club for the city of Baton Rouge. “For some, Tabby’s had been a reminder of a crude past, best forgotten. The demolition would be a victory for the moralists and old-time racists……Over the years, the Blues Box had become an iconic hall representing a slice of Americana. Through the power of music and dance, Tabby’s helped to bring our segregated community from post-civil rights movement era race riots to the door of America’s promise and Martin Luther King’s dream.”

This book will challenge readers in a good way. While you may disagree with some of King’s contentions, you certainly will find that he has delved deep into history for the information to support his theories, and makes a convincing case for reconsideration. 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 – 7 of 8 

imageMattias Malm – Malm on Burnside

No website


10 songs – 35 minutes

R.L Burnside was a master of the North Mississippi hill country style of blues, forsaking the more common I-IV-V bar chord progressions in favour single-chord blues. Played badly, as anyone who has had the misfortune to witness “Smokestack Lightnin'” being mangled by a multitude of bar bands will know, a one-chord song can be an exercise in gritted teeth and tedium. Played well, however, there is a pulsating, dronal quality to the rhythm that is atavistic, sexual and wholly irresistible.

Malm on Burnside is the debut solo album from Swedish blues guitarist, Mattias Malm and is a delightful tribute to and celebration of the genius of R.L. Burnside. Recorded live with just Malm’s guitar, vocals and foot stomps, the album comprises some classic Burnside songs such as “Jumper On The Line” and “Going Down South” alongside various covers, such as John Lee Hooker’s “When My First Wife Left Me”, Robert Johnson’s “Walking Blues” and the traditional “Someday Baby” and “Long Haired Doney”, all but one closely associated with and regularly played by Burnside himself.

All the songs are played as one-chord grooves except for Jimmy Reed’s “You Don’t Have To Go” and the focus is very much on entrancing rhythms and subtle dynamics with slashing slide guitar or finger-picked melodies. Like Burnside himself, Malm swaps happily between acoustic and electric guitars, helping add variety and texture to the album.

The album was recorded live in Fabriken Studios in Malmo, Sweden and was engineered and produced by Thomas Larsen, who has done a fine job in capturing some excellent performances.

Opening with “Fireman Ring The Bell”, the main riff of which remains as closely related as ever to “Rollin’ And Tumblin'”, it is immediately apparent that Malm is the real deal. His guitar playing (or, on this track, his Lowebow cigar box guitar playing) may be a little more precise than Burnside’s, but it has the same fire and grit, dialling in a ferociously distorted tone on some of the electric numbers.

It’s probably fair to say that Malm’s vocals are not quite on a par with Burnside’s primeval articulations (but then again, whose are?), but his weathered tones fit the music perfectly.

“Going Down South” has a coldly threatening undertone, with the guitar echoing Malm’s hums and moans, while “Jumper On The Line” has a hypnotic, toe-tapping, hip-thrusting allure. The guitar on “Long Haired Doney” is brutal, while “Miss Maybelle” is played acoustically and is accordingly lighter in tone.

Malm approaches the cover tracks in Burnside’s inimitable fashion, often following Burnside’s own arrangements. This reviewer is not aware of Burnside recording “You Don’t Have To Go” and Malm’s finger-picked acoustic version has perhaps more swing than Burnside would apply, but is nonetheless a fine interpretation.

Malm On Burnside, which is available on all digital platforms, is not an anodyne facsimile of Burnside’s music. It may be a pastiche, but it is also a superb celebration of the music of an all-time master, played with deep emotional commitment. Very impressive and very enjoyable.

Reviewer Rhys “Lightnin'” Williams plays guitar in a blues band based in Cambridge, England. He also has a day gig as a lawyer.

 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 8 

imageSteve Lukather & Edgar Winter – Live at North Sea Jazz Festival 2000

String Commander/MIG Music

8 songs – 66 minutes

Matching playing styles that infuse blues, rock and jazz, Steve Lukather and Edgar Winter fit like hand and glove when they toured together in 2000, and their performance gets to live once more through this release from MIG, the German label whose catalog contains a treasure trove of performances captured across Europe dating back to the mid-‘70s.

Available as a CD/DVD boxed set, the extended jams here were laid down at Statenhal auditorium in The Hague, Netherlands, on July 14, 2000, in front of an adoring crowd at the North Sea Jazz Festival while embarked on what they labeled their “Odd Couple Tour.” It was an interesting pairing in many ways.

A prolific studio musician and producer, Lukather’s a California native who was a guitarist who was influenced by Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton, but was best known for his work with Toto, the progressive rock band he founded four years earlier, and through his interest in jazz fusion. And Texan Edgar – a multi-instrumentalist who played keys, sax and timbales on this disc – had established himself as one of the biggest names in blues-rock with such hits as “Free Ride” and “Frankenstein” earlier in the decade, but also infused jazz into his sets, too.

There two worlds collided as they traded vocal and instrumental leads with backing from a rhythm section composed of bassist Phil Soussan (Billy Idol, Johnny Halliday) and percussionist Gary Ferguson (Gary Moore, Eddie Money). The music they produce together is a symbiosis of musical stylings, but the blues shines through most of all.

A blazing four-four beat kicks off Lukather’s jazz fusion number, “Smell Yourself,” with Edgar laying down rapid-fire horn runs that begin trading space with Steve’s intense guitar lines soon after, and the power of his delivery reduces somewhat as the song settles down after a brief stop-time break. The blues kick in to stay for the Winter original, “Texas,” a medium-paced shuffle with deep bottom that gives Lukather to display his chops as Edgar comps on keys.

Edgar opens Lukather’s “Song for Jeff” – a teary tribute to Toto bassist Jeff Porcaro who had succumbed to a heart attack in 1992 – with a brief keyboard instrumental before Lukather soars with deep, unhurried single-note guitar runs for more than six minutes as he releases his pain. The six-string pyrotechnics continue in “Redhouse,” an obvious reworking of the Jimi Hendrix classic, but the liner notes give the headliners writing credit.

Jazz and gospel kick in as Edgar revisits his White Trash days to cover that band’s monster hit, “Fly Away,” before he and Steve join forces for a six-minute medley that combines Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” and Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” with Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally.” A 13-minute version of John D. Loudermilk’s familiar blues, “Tobacco Road” – which incorporates a bit of the Isley Brothers’ “Shout” at the end — follows before a 16-minute take on Winter’s “Frankenstein” — with a brief interlude of Henry Mancini’s “Pink Panther Theme” — brings the set to a close.

Blues fans should enjoy this CD. It’s a great example of true BLUES-rock – emphasizing the former, but incorporating the latter – the way it used to be.

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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