Cover photo © 2021 Laura Carbone
In This Issue
Bucky O’Hare has our feature interview with Eric Gales. We have four Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Luca Burgalassi, Christopher Dean Band, Kurt Allen and Steve Marriner.
From The Editor’s Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
Due to the current Covid – 19 issues we have decided that there will not be Blues Blast Music Awards ceremonies.
However the votes have been tabulated and the results will be announced soon.
Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!
Featured Interview – Eric Gales
“My style is compiled of a lot of different variants and particles from all across the board. All different styles, genres and everything. I listened to everybody coming up and it’s apparent. I think what is the ultimate goal of an artist is for an average person that knows nothing about music to figure out within a few notes who you are.”
“I’ve always been told by my brother Eugene ‘why get an imitation when you can go a few rows down in the record store and buy the real thing?’ I think it’s all about cementing your own DNA on your style to where at the end of your legacy, or at the end of making your legacy, you are able to let a listener be able to know who you are not by telling them who you are, but they be able to know ‘man that’s Eric Gales.’ Just naturally what comes to me is what comes out. There is no pre-preparation or whatever. When it hits my soul I try to answer it when I can, the best I can and it seems to come out alright.”
Eric Gales is the emotive explosive genius of modern Blues guitar. A deep and sensitive artist, Eric channels his ancestors and presses every last drop of himself into his guitar, his singing and his artistic production. A vibrant and inventive talent, Eric has had a long career for a relatively young man. A child prodigy who learned his craft from Gospel music and Old Time-y Blues at the feet of his 2 older brothers, Eric became a voracious guitar student. Playing left handed and being endlessly inventive, Eric is often compared to Jimi Hendrix although unlike Hendrix, Eric strings his guitar with the low strings on the bottom a la Albert King. Eric says of the well worn Hendrix comparison: “Having my name and his name in the same sentence is the highest compliment in the world. But, at the same time I’m not trying to be the next Jimi Hendrix, I’m trying to be the first Eric Gales.” This rings true in Eric’s unique blend of Blues, Rock, Funk, Jazz and R&B.
Eric Gales has lived hard throughout his career. Having succumbed to substance abuse, Eric is proudly 5 years sober. In spite of his struggles, Eric has continued to be prolific in recorded output and tireless in his annual touring schedule. Eric has catapulted his career into the super-star realm over the past 10 years . Poised to release in January 2022 his 3rd major breakthrough album in the past decade, I Want My
“It was an experience that we all didn’t expect to happen. The George Floyd thing, that’s what I mean we didn’t expect to happen. It happened the day before we began to start writing for this record. Unfortunately the material in this record came about from the death of a man, the world saw it for themselves. It enabled me to dive a little bit more deeper into self and speak from a perspective, from my angle. What makes me anything different than him? As I began to chat about this to Joe and Josh (Smith, ace guitarist and co-producer of the record), raw and unnerved emotion came out of me, and Joe furiously scribbled down notes about it all. It just fueled the whole thing. And fury, you know you watch that and you don’t get angry, I don’t know what’s wrong with you, you know what I mean. So that just fueled a lot of things.”
“So we turned that into a 13 song record with 3 vignettes. It was a way that I saw that made sense to be able to speak to the masses and to have a conversation with people that hear this record. I didn’t want to come off where I was preaching or forcefully trying to tell somebody. Sometimes you just talk to them, most of the time that works unless they just ain’t listening. And it fueled an amazing record of material that is based and surrounded by my life and things encountered within it. Everything is not so dreadful, it’s a really positive message I have to say. And the songs and the vocal work is top tier level man. When it came time to sing, I had to take breaks between vocals to cry and let it out. I was sharing my experiences as a Black man, and my private struggles. This is me letting the world know what I’ve been through.”
“Recording that record, man, we all laid the tracks down as a band. Reese Wynans on keys and I’m in there and it’s a real moment. I’m right across from Reese and we looking at each other in the eyes, every song. The history behind him with Delbert McClinton and Stevie Ray and the whole thing. The whole band, it wasn’t forced, the whole band was in tears after every song, I’m talking about it was a real serious moment, man.”
“We tracked and then began to do overdubs. Quite a bit of the solos that were done and everything that was played was done all at one time. The majority of the record was roll as we go. It’s kind of the first time that I’ve recorded that way. It captures an energy that is a little different than overdubbing everything. I’m very pleased. It was high emotion with everybody, you could feel it walking into the room. Not an anger sort of thing, but they were all involved in a record by an artist that is very passionate about what he is talking about. Everybody put everything they had into it. I think this is gonna be the record of the decade.”
Having both been child prodigies, Eric and Joe met when they were both just starting out and then fell out of touch. It was a 2019 Blues cruise performance in which Bonamassa called Eric up to sit in for an epic guitar summit that rekindled their relationship.
“He is a buddy of mine and been a buddy since 28 years ago when we first met. The trajectory of his life and his career, you know, he took the bull by the horns and rode it really well and still riding it real good. I have the highest respect that I could ever have for a friend of mine. Joe told me ‘you have no idea how long I’ve been waiting on you.’ Not necessarily to ask him to produce a record or whatever, but just simply be ready to take my life under control. He jumped into the deep end with me, I couldn’t have a better best friend. We have rekindled what that moment was when we first met each other 28 years ago now that I’ve got my life together. ”
“You know I get it, some need to stay away for their own safety because I was a demolition ball. Now that I have finally got some life on things, now the people that has been watching the trajectory are like ‘man, I just been waiting on you.’ As things happen I’m ready and open to receive everything that’s coming.”
This positive trajectory has been building. Starting with 2017’s rock solid Middle of the Road, Eric has been on a long positive trajectory. 2019’s The Bookends catalyzed Eric’s stardom with a fresh take on modern Funk-Rock. With his business partner and often song co-writer, wife LaDonna Gales by his side, Eric called in ace 90’s Rock producer Matt Wallace to realize his vision.
“That record right there man, we got in and I just wanted to showcase the different influences and styles that I pull from and try to do it in a way that the songs gave light to that. I had a whole lot of fun with the producer Matt Wallace and my wife, LaDonna. The original producer that was to produce that record died right before pre-production and we got Matt. Matt, my man, my dude.”
“It was intense there too. There were moments that we sat in there and cried, man. The vocals and melodies and solos come out and he’d just sit there and shake his head and say ‘wow man.’ This is his words ‘in my lifetime I’ve never been so inspired by an artist.’ you know I don’t take things like that light heartedly. For someone who has worked with some of everybody to tell you that you have cemented a spot in their life forever, that they will never forget, is something you can go to bed at night and say ‘wow, that’s pretty deep.’”
“That whole record, man, we brought (bassist) MonoNeon on in, Aaron Haggerty on drums. The guest artists B. Slade, Beth Hart, Doyle Bramhall it was just amazing. I love that record. We still play tunes from that record now, and I think we will forever play songs from that record, it’s amazing. It went to #1 on Billboard, you know the charts, and shot up. The thing is I think that has been a whole trajectory of my career the last 10 years. And, I think the trajectory has gotten even more intense in the last 5 years because I made a decision to do some things different in life.”
“About 2 weeks ago I celebrated 5 years clean. That has been a major factor in all that is good that is happening in my life, I 100% believe that. I am just overjoyed when watching the process. Bookends is definitely a monumental milestone in that trudge of happy destiny in my career that is not gonna stop anytime soon if I have anything to do about it.”
Eric is a guitarist first and foremost. He is the heir apparent in the line of electric guitar masters staring with Guitar Slim moving into Buddy Guy, being mutated by Jimi Hendrix and then catalyzed by Stevie Ray Vaughn. But as is especially illustrated so well on his last three records, he is a thoughtful, astute and vulnerable songwriter. Songwriting is a collaborative commune for Eric, a group process which requires trust and friendship.
“For me music is what comes up first and then you know the topic will come up later. I’ve always collaborated with writers. Where I feel that I may lack in, I know what I want to talk about but trying to put in the right song format is where I think I have done pretty good with pairing up with people that I respect and am very inspired by that help me come up with the songs. In October I’ll be 47 years old and my life has had its ups and downs and therein lies a hell of a batch of experiences to talk about that I think the listener can benefit from. In ways of inspiration, in ways of just knowing we are not exempt even though we are on a platform that the world sees us. Even as the average Jane and John Doe listens to the material that I do I want them to understand about things that can be very similar to what’s going on in their life. And I think that’s how you connect with the listener, is by them being able to connect with the topic in the song. It don’t come out the right way any other way, you know. I’m kind of stuck to it.”
Eric Gales is an appreciative man. Having journeyed down a long road, Eric is receiving the critical and commercial success he so richly deserves. Like so many, the COVID crisis hit him and his family hard. Eric and LaDonna both contracted the virus and were hospitalized. Unable to properly tour and share the remarkable music of The Bookends with the world, Eric had to work from home and feed his inspiration. He teased that he has an all acoustic double album in the can that will “blow minds” when it ever gets released. Now poised to launch his new record in the new year it seems like 2022 will be the year of Gales. Eric will be bringing his emotional playing and infectious music to us soon.
“Man, it (what he thinks of when he is playing) varies through a whole lot of different things. Sometimes it’s a insurmountable amount of pain that I’m thinking about and also it’s an insurmountable amount of joy. It toggles back and forth between the two. Thinking about my loved ones that’s passed away. I really and truly believe that they’re looking down and smiling and it immediately causes me to get emotional and that’s when tears come down my face.”
“The tears aren’t always from sadness, it’s actually more so from overwhelming joy. Joy that I am feeling from the caring, knowing how my life is now, that my mom and grandmom and mom and dad and brothers that has passed on are looking down and are very very proud that the baby boy in the family got his life together.”
Visit Eric’s website to see where you can catch him live soon at:https://www.ericgales.com/
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.
Featured Blues Review – 1 of 4
Luca Burgalassi – Come To My World
12 songs, 40 minutes
Luca Burgalassi’s Come To My World is aptly titled. A COVID record, Burgalassi played almost every sound on this all original material record himself during lockdown in the Spring of 2020. This Virginia based Italian transplant offers an eclectic album of mostly lush folk pop. Luca’s Italian accented singing, sinewy fingerpicked acoustic guitar and vulnerable songwriting create a romantic confessional style. However Blues fans, one would be hard pressed to categorize this as a Blues record. Aside from a few Blues based flourishes this album is a singer/songwriter indulging his muse in often divergent paths creating an at times inconsistent musical experience as a whole.
Some of the best indulgences: The “Stray Cat Strut” slink of the title track builds momentum and power as it chugs along. The ethereal “Climb up High” with piano from Valentina Sorbera and strings from Holly Kirsten has an off kilter Radiohead dissonance. The Virginia homage “Tidewater Attitude” featuring local musicians Michael Glass on vocals and guitar, Bobby Black Hat on vocals and harp, Rob Oliver on vocals and guitar, Pamela Jo Ward on vocals and Sorbera and Kristen again joining in, has a mountain top hop to it. The 2 instrumentals “Notte” and “Home” are pastoral in their majestic simplicity.
The Blues based tracks: Opener “My Loving Babe” is a 12-bar shuffle resplendent with harmonica and slide guitar. The electric noodling and Jazzy chords of “All My Blues” has a sing-song rhyming lyrical pattern. “The Real Me” is a Country Blues slide romp. Unfortunately the lyrical content of these songs are not deep and full of cliché. The Blues seems to be used as a multi-tracking studio exercise more than an expression of inner self. In comparison to the other material on this album, these tracks disappoint.
Luca Burgalassi is a talented musician and his wide range of talents are on full display on Come To My World. To multi track all the instruments for a song is a very difficult thing to do well. These performances sound live and engaged and Luca brings real emotion to the music. In the vacuum of lockdown it is fun and cathartic to allow your most ambitious skills run wild. That is what Burgalassi has done here and created some truly transcendent moments as a result.
Reviewer Bucky O’Hare is a Bluesman based in Boston who spreads his brand of blues and funk all over New England. Bucky has dedicated himself to experiencing the Blues and learning its history. As a writer, Bucky has been influenced by music critics and social commentators such as Angela Davis, Peter Guralnick, Eric Nisenson, Francis Davis and Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Featured Blues Review – 2 of 4
Christopher Dean Band – Songs From French Street
Lost World Music
14 songs time – 62:36
Vocalist-guitarist Christopher Dean and band cook up a tasty slice of soul and R&B along with some blues on this his fourth album for Lost World Music. It is well-executed and produced. I like the more bluesy selections. For those fond of the soul-R&B genre there is much to like here from boisterous horn-driven songs, soulful ballads, and the occasional blues offering.
Many of the songs such as “Can I Get It” and “Without You In My Life” capture the horn-punctuated soul song of the sixties to a “T”. Soul singer Johnny Rawls adds his vocals to both tracks, right alongside Christopher. One of the few blues songs, Otis Rush’s classic “Keep Lovin’ Me Baby” also contains a hint of R&B influence. Christopher’s vocals are drenched in soulfulness which are helped by his tasty guitar play.
He manages to emulate Curtis Mayfield’s vocal delivery on Mayfield’s “My Country”. The first bonus blues track is Muddy Waters’ “Gypsy Woman”, in which he and the band deliver the goods with Dean on guitar and “Chicago” Carl on blues piano. Dean switches to acoustic guitar and Carl reappears for Memphis Minnie’s “Nothing In Ramblin'”.
The band has this music down pat. Steve Lombardelli serves as a one-man horn section(augmented by Joe Mixon) throughout that is bolstered by a sturdy rhythm section. The clean production values were supplied by Phillip (Taj) Jackson. The guys commit themselves handily on the upbeat numbers along with the sultry soul ballads. The result is a first-class effort. There is a variety of music to enjoy here.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
Featured Blues Review – 3 of 4
Kurt Allen – Whiskey, Women & Trouble
10 songs – 45 minutes
Whiskey, Women & Trouble is the sophomore release from Kansas City blues-rocker, Kurt Allen. As one might expect from an album with a title like this and whose cover photo depicts Allen standing in front of a well-stocked bar, with a young lady on each arm and a sticker-festooned Gibson 335 in his hand, there is more than a hint of the 1970s on this release.
There is, for example, the suggestion of early Deep Purple in the funky low-down single note riff of opening track, “Graveyard Blues”, which highlights Allen’s gravelly vocals and the muscular rhythm section of Lester Estelle Jr. on drums and Craig Kew on bass. Allen’s slide guitar solo fits the song nicely. The follow-up, “Watch Yo Step”, opens with a similarly rocky riff but cleverly and subtly morphs into a swinging stop-time shuffle that benefits from the tight horns of Beaux Lux on saxophone, Pete Carroll on trumpet and Trevor Turla on trombone (Lux also provides excellent piano throughout the album). The clever guitar riff and Estelle’s busy jungle drums set the track apart and this is where the 1970s influence is most evident. Bands in that decade were happy to display all their inspirations and influences, and so is Allen. Whiskey, Woman & Trouble is not simple yet lumpen blues-rock. It’s an enjoyable mash-up of blues, rock, funk and soul and, while Allen’s voice may lean more towards rock at times, the piano and saxophone of Lux keeps pulling the music back towards blues and soul.
“How Long” is a slow blues with Allen’s guitar dripping with emotion, while the title track is a swinging jump blues with a great horn arrangement, often echoed directly by the guitar lines. “Funkalicious” is as funky as its name, opening with Kew’s monstrous bass line and featuring a spoken voice celebration of Allen’s love of soul food. Lux’s piano playing shines in the soul ballad “Count On Me.” The upbeat blues-rock “Roadrunner” contains more excellent saxophone, while the edgy riff of “Cry Mercy” is both distinctive and effective, sounding like Lynyrd Skynyrd after a long stay in Louisiana.
“Voodoo Queen” benefits from more soaring saxophone and one of Allen’s more impressive vocal performances, while the closing “Sweet T” is a full-bore flat out rock’n’roll workout, like Chuck Berry on steroids.
Allen is not one of those guitar players who tries to pack in a million notes into every bar, preferring instead to rely on the thick, warm heavily overdriven tones of his Gibson. His ability to switch seamlessly between standard guitar and slide on tracks like “Watch Yo Step” is also enjoyable.
All 10 tracks are originals and provide an excellent introduction to Kurt Allen.
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 – 4 of 4
Steve Marriner – Hope Dies Last
Stony Plain Records – 2021
10 tracks; 38 minutes
Canadian Steve Marriner is clearly a guy who likes to keep busy. He is one third of MonkeyJunk, half of a duo with Harry Manx and a regular collaborator with Colin James and Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar. His latest release was recorded both before and during the Covid pandemic, one track dating back as far as 2017, four of the ten tracks coming from what was obviously a very productive session on November 23, 2020.
In contrast to MonkeyJunk albums, this one involves a far wider range of musicians: Steve plays harp and guitar, bass, drums and piano as required, Jimmy Bowskill plays lead guitar on five tracks, pedal steel and bass on one track and adds harmony vocals to four, Aaron Goldstein plays pedal steel on one, Chris Caddell and Steve Dawson provide slide guitar on a track each, Jesse O’Brien plays keys on four tracks, Michael Ayotte piano on one; Glenn Milchem plays drums on four tracks, Daniel Neill and Geoff Hicks on one each, Darcy Yates plays bass on five cuts, Ian McKeown on one. There are a lot of vocalists helping out, Ian McKeown is on three tracks, Brittany Brooks, Moa Blucher and Roxanne Potvin do the honours on two cuts apiece, Mwansa Mwansa and Samantha Martin on one each, while Samantha also duets with Steve on a song. Steve produced the album, wrote four songs himself, collaborated with several different writers on another four and there are two covers.
The sounds of a busy street preface opening track “Take Me To The City” before pounding drums and ringing guitars set us up for a rocking track. Steve has a strong voice, here supported by three backing vocalists, and he pulls out a great harp solo, complemented by Jimmy Bowskill’s solo. “Honey Bee” was a track on Tom Petty’s Wildflowers album, Steve’s version arguably returns the song closer to its influences in blues tunes by Muddy Waters and Slim Harpo. First single from the album “How High” is a high tempo rocker with the rhythm section hitting hard and Bowskill again taking the guitar honors, the song also referencing bees! Steve is ready to do what is necessary in this relationship: “You say jump and I’ll say how high”. “Somethin’ Somethin’” sounds like a desperate plea for help: “My mind has enslaved me, I need someone to help me, I need someone to crave me, someone who ain’t afraid of me”, Steve’s agonizing harp blast fitting the bleak mood of the lyrics. The catchy “Coal Mine” takes us deep into Americana territory.
Samantha Martin shares the vocals on a ballad about the girl whose man told he that she was “Enough”, Steve then reinforcing that the relationship is not strong enough to survive. Beautifully produced, Jesse O’Brien’s Hammond and Jimmy Bowskill’s weeping pedal steel match the tragic mood well. The funky instrumental “Uptown Lockdown” reminded me of The Meters and acts as a sort of interlude before Steve sings in French on “Petite Danse”, a song that came into his head when he heard the news of Dr John’s passing on the radio; native speaker Roxanne Potvin assisted with the grammar of the lyrics and adds her harmony vocals to the song, the groove and slide guitar bringing Little Feat to mind. “Hear My Heart” is a heavier tune with Chris Caddell double-tracked on slide and lead work, Steve playing some torrid harp before ending the album with an extended version of “Long Way Down” by fellow Canadian Kaylen Prescott. It’s just acoustic guitar, harp and piano, all played by Steve, plus backing vocals and strings, a song with a wistful feel and sad lyrics about people falling from grace, either through drugs or gambling.
Far from a straight blues album, Steve has produced a blend of rocking and thoughtful songs here that provide a thoroughly enjoyable listen.
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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