Issue 15-40 October 7, 2021

Cover photo © 2021 Laura Carbone

 In This Issue 

Anita Schlank has our feature interview with King Solomon Hicks. We have seven Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Gene Jackson, Colin Linden, Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps, Fred Hostetler, Chris Daniels, Hazel Miller, Dana Marsh & Friends, The Mojo Blues Band and Erik Trauner.

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 Featured Interview – King Soloman Hicks 

image“My favorite new find!” That’s what many people are saying about King Solomon Hicks after seeing him perform recently at the Big Blues Bender in Las Vegas. But Hicks has actually been playing professionally since he was thirteen years of age. Born and raised in Harlem (where he still lives), Hicks first picked up the guitar at age six and was known as the kid who always had a guitar on his back and was always being told by the teachers in school to put his guitar away. He was playing at the Lenox Lounge in New York at age thirteen when a woman named Princess Billie Holiday approached him about coming to the legendary Cotton Club to replace a departing guitarist. Initially he played on only three songs but was soon asked to play five nights a week. Hicks acknowledged that not everyone was happy to see a young kid join the band.

“Initially there was a little bit of animosity about me being a kid, but that went away once they saw that I wasn’t goofing off and was trying to be one with the band. The Cotton Club is where I first felt my love for entertaining the crowd and was the first place I learned how to work with a band. I was able to develop my sound and it sparked my interest to continue playing. And playing five nights a week helped me sharpen my skills and connect with the audience.”

From the Cotton Club, Hicks played a two-week tour in Denmark and Japan, opening for Jeff Beck and Ringo Starr, and then was booked on the KISS cruise with Gene Simmons, and the Joe Bonamassa Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea Cruise, which all seems somewhat unusual for a teen who had just graduated high school at that time. He was also invited to be a judge at the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis, although he had never competed at the IBCs.

“We were just very blessed. I do believe in luck and being in the right place at the right time, but I also believe in preparation and practice and focus. For the IBCs, I was already out playing professionally, so that’s why I did not compete. It was an honor to be there as a judge, and, of course, I’ll take any excuse to be in Memphis.”

Hicks first studied jazz, which provided a good foundation for him musically, but he soon found himself drifting over to the blues.

“Jazz is dealing with theory and harmony, but sometimes the theory doesn’t give you the feeling I want. Jazz is dealing with harmony clashing, versus letting a note ring long enough for the right vibrato. If I have to dedicate myself for the next 50 years, I’ll take that over playing 25 chord changes. Jazz will always be a part of who I am, and it gives you a base music-wise, but the blues makes you feel good.”

imageHicks added ‘King’ to his name as a tribute to the three ‘kings’ (BB, Freddy & Albert), and noted that he hoped to “carry on some of that same classiness they had.” He appears to be accomplishing this goal, as he is already known for consistently appearing very well-dressed and well-mannered. Hicks also identified numerous musical influences besides the ‘three kings’, including Selwyn Birchwood’s storytelling ability, the guitar work of Walter Trout, Marcus King, Kingfish, and ‘Monster’ Mike Welch, and the innovative ways in which Kevin Burt is able to reimagine popular songs.

When asked if he thought it was rare for a young person to be interested in the blues, Hicks compared it to developing a taste for alcohol.

“It’s like a drink. Some people can drink straight whiskey like some people can listen to straight blues. Other people need a chaser for the alcohol, or to break it down with a little Sprite. They can’t handle straight booze and they can’t handle straight blues. Maybe when they get older, they might appreciate straight blues, but until then we find a way for them to like it. I have been playing for teens who never heard blues, but if you present it in the right way, you can get them turned on. There are always ways to change things and reinvent it for someone who hasn’t heard the songs—to make it multigenerational.”

While playing as a solo musician at a festival in Brooklyn, Hicks met his current manager, Kirk Yano, who also recorded, co-produced and played bass on Hicks’ album, Harlem. Yano, who is a three-time Grammy winner and has worked with a wide variety of artists, such as Mariah Carey and Public Enemy, seemed like the perfect pairing to Hicks.

“Kirk is the perfect producer because of how he likes all of these different styles of music. He never pigeon-holed me into saying we’re just going to play traditional blues, and we’ve been working together for the past six years. You never know who you meet in life, and when you meet the right person and you are both focused and have the same goal, it’s a beautiful thing.”

Hicks discussed the two original songs on the album, both named for street addresses.

“Riverside Drive is looking right at New Jersey on the Hudson River. It is one of my relaxing places. I write best near some type of water. I will always be a city person, but it’s also nice to be out in nature. And ‘421 South Main’ is a salute to the blues museum in south Memphis. Going to Memphis was a turning point for me.”

He noted that he focused mainly on covering great songs for this first album but planned to include more original material in his next album. This decision was partly due to his insight that the quality of songwriting often improves with life experience.

image“For the next album I’ll be writing more original material. You have to live a bit more of life, and get your heart broken to write good songs. I had one heartbreak already, and that really messed with me, and I listen to lyrics differently now. After that loved one passes away, or someone steals your guitar, those are the dues that you don’t really see on stage, but you live through it. You don’t get to be a great player like Walter Trout until you have paid your dues. You don’t necessarily have to have bad times to play the blues, but it definitely helps. For this album I was focused on taking great songs and putting arrangements that really related to me. I was born in 1995, so I would never understand what Junior Wells went through. So, I won’t do a song note for note like the original. I have to try to find a way to put myself in every song.”

One such song on the album is a bluesy version of Gary Wright’s song, ‘My Love is Alive’. This seemed like an unusual choice, not only because it was not originally a blues song, but also because it was popular in 1975, decades before Hicks’ birth.

“Kirk turned me onto ‘My Love is Alive’. He’ll give me songs that he heard his whole life. We’ll be in the studio, and I’ll think he’s crazy, and then I realize it’s genius crazy. It’s fun seeing when people realize what song it is—it’s like a bolt of electricity. We also did ‘I Love you More than you Know’ more like a samba, and I put my own direction to ‘Every Day I Have the Blues’. I’m trying to find my own imprint. Sometimes the best things come out of people who are willing to take chances and push the envelope. It’s great working with someone who has an open ear.”

When asked if the pandemic caused significant disruption to his blossoming career, Hicks noted that he was in Spain when it hit, and he was supposed to play Paris, but had to fly back to the United States immediately or risk being unable to leave Europe. His album had just dropped, which is an unfortunate time to have gigs cancelled.

“It was kind of the best of times and the worst of times. It was the worst because of the pandemic, and everybody took huge blows, but the best because the album was out there, and also just to be alive. Lots of people are not here because of COVID, so any day above ground is a good day.”

Hicks is already giving back to younger musicians, as he was one of the few artists who donated the money made from airing a performance on the ‘Can’t Stop the Blues’ Facebook page. He donated that money to the Pinetop Perkins Foundation and the Blues Museum. (For those not familiar with the Pinetop Perkins Foundation, it is a non-profit that offers support for young people in the early stages of their musical career, and also provides care and safety for elderly musicians in the twilight of their career.) His generosity is not surprising, as his humility, sincerity and kindness seem quickly apparent in any interaction with him. He noted that he held the following belief.

“You don’t need to take money all the time. It’s good to give to the cause and help when you can. There were times when people have helped me. It’s a cyclical world—a very spiritual thing. I’m more spiritual than religious, but I think the music comes from a higher power than ourselves.”

Most recently, Hicks collaborated with Eliza Neals for her song “Sugar Daddy” and is featured in the music video for that song. He is also scheduled to open for Samantha Fish in the near future. You can find out where King Solomon Hicks is playing by checking his website:

Interviewer Anita Schlank lives in Virginia, and is on the Board of Directors for the River City Blues Society. She has been a fan of the blues since the 1980s. She and Tab Benoit co-authored the book “Blues Therapy,” with all proceeds from sales going to the HART Fund.



 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 7

IMAGEGene Jackson – The Jungle

Blue Lotus Recordings

11 songs – 40 minutes

St Louis soul vocalist Gene Jackson’s debut album, 1963, came out in 2017 to critical acclaim, including glowing review in Blues Blast magazine and a Blues Blast Music Award nomination (new artist debut). The Jungle is his sophomore effort, and a very impressive one it is too.

The album features 11 original tracks that – like his debut – mine a classic Southern soul-blues sound. The opening track, “Thinking About It” is a prime example as the core band kicks off with a surging, toe-tapping groove before the horns enter to punctuate and accentuate the sound. Jackson’s voice is a highly impressive instrument, rich, soulful and full of character with the ability to both drive the song (as on “Thinking About It”) or to float subtly around the core melody as in the yearning ballad “Can That Woman Be You.”

“I Can’t Ignore It” benefits from a massed choral backing and strings as well as horns, all of which help to add to the overall 60s vibe, while the minor key “Won’t Hold Water” is the sort of song that Johnny Adams would have loved to have wrapped his pipes around.

The focus of The Jungle is very much on the quality of both Jackson’s voice and the song-writing. This is not an album of long instrumental introductions and solos, although the musicianship is top drawer throughout – tight but loose, with irresistible rhythm – and the production is glistening. Lyrically, Jackson addresses traditional fare such as love lost and won (albeit often from a novel perspective, such as on “It’s Not Just Sex”), but he also reflects on some very modern issues. On “Vaccine” he asks “Where is the vaccine? I don’t know. Covid-19” over some funky wah-wah guitar (the song was written before regulators approved any vaccines). On the title track, Jackson contemplates the challenges of drug addiction in urban areas.

Multi-instrumentalist Paul Niehaus IV, the powerhouse behind Blue Lotus Recordings, deserves significant credit for giving Jackson the exposure he has long deserved. If these is any justice in this world, The Jungle should increase that exposure exponentially. In the meantime, if your tastes lean towards Southern Soul played and sung with intelligence, panache and deep emotion, you should definitely pick up a copy of The Jungle.

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 – 2 of 7 

IMAGEColin Linden – bLOW

Highway 20/Thirty Tigers – 2021

11 tracks; 47.13 minutes

Canadian Colin Linden returns with a new album, intriguingly titled bLOW, which has the honor of being the first release on Lucinda Williams’ new label Highway 20. Colin is perhaps better known as a producer of over 100 albums and a musical collaborator (having played with Bob Dylan, John Prine and Gregg Allman amongst others) than as a recording artist but has released quite a few solo albums. The origins of these songs here can be found in music for which Colin was commissioned for a TV show. When he had completed the task he felt that some of the pieces could be further developed into songs and he carried on working them up.

Recorded during the Covid pandemic, the album includes contributions from some of his regular bandmates: drummers Gary Craig and bassist John Dymond. from Toronto, Dave Jaques (bass) and Paul Griffiths (drums) having been the rhythm section on the original TV show recordings. Unfortunately full album credits were not supplied with the promo copy for review, so I am assuming that all other instruments (guitar, piano, harmonica) are played by Colin himself.

When he was 11, Colin met Howling Wolf who told him that he had to carry forward the flame, obviously leaving a firm impression on young Colin who still carries a frayed photo of the two of them in conversation. The music on this album is heavier than much of Colin’s solo work, perhaps reflecting aspects of the Wolf’s legacy. The band lays down a heavy beat on opener “4 Cars”, adding to the rush of “four cars speeding to the same crossroads”, as Colin plays some slinky slide. “Ain’t No Shame” is a good example of Wolf’s influence, Colin even including a little howling towards the end!

Colin adds harp to the steady rhythm of a tale of a guy trying to find a place to shelter “Until The Heat Leaves Town” before another Wolf-influenced track, “Angel Next To Me”, the tune of which sounds a little like “How Many More Times” with Colin’s jagged guitar work underpinned by piano stylings. Colin’s solo guitar opens up “Boogie Let Me Be” which does exactly what the title suggests.

There is a gospel feel to “When I Get To Galilee”, a track that brings The Band to mind, especially on the chorus. The title track is based on Colin’s experience of being in a motel in Oklahoma during a tornado, the organ part played by his wife Janice who describes her contribution as being “like a deranged church lady” as Colin plays some nice slide over a chugging rhythm. We get right back to the blues, both lyrically and musically, on “Change Don’t Come Without Pain” as Colin sings about hard times coming along and plays some fine slide guitar.

The rough and tough boogie of “Right Shoe Wrong Foot” channels Bo Diddley and is a particularly strong track with Colin’s hard-riffing guitar over a busy rhythm section – try keeping still to this one! Thunderous drums lead us through Colin’s rocking tribute to “Houston” where he is welcomed by the words “you look like you come from snow” and the album then closes with a superb song. Guitar and harmonica play closely together as Colin reflects on the experience of the pandemic: “Days of darkness, world in trouble, everybody’s living in their own bubble. Keeping the distance, keeping the faith, holding our breath, can’t get no relief. But beyond this moment there’s a song waiting to be sung, with a sound so sweet, like Honey On My Tongue”.

A good album with several excellent tracks and no filler, well worth catching.

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 7 

IMAGETeresa James & The Rhythm Tramps – Rose-Colored Glasses Vol 1

Blue Heart Records – 2021

12 tracks: 48.27 minutes

Teresa James was born and raised in Texas but is a long-time California resident, making great music since her debut disc in 1998. Teresa is a piano player and vocalist who works closely with husband and bassist Terry Wilson, who is the main songwriter here, Teresa and Gregg Sutton co-writing three each. The Rhythm Tramps is an ace group of seasoned professionals: Billy Watts on guitar, Kevin McKendree on Hammond B3 and Herman Matthews and Jay Bellerose sharing the drum stool. The core band is aided by a two-man horn section of Paulie Cerra on saxes and Darrell Leonard on brass, plus backing vocals from Terry Wilson, Lucy Wilson, Nicki Bluhm and Richard Millsap who also adds percussion to three tracks; Michael Starr adds strings to one cut.

The band’s last studio album Here In Babylon won a Grammy nomination and there would seem no reason why this one should not do the same. The album features a number of guest guitarists, mainly from Texas: Anson Funderburgh, James Pennebaker, Johnny Lee Schell, Dean Parks, Lee Roy Parnell, Snuffy Walden, David Millsap and Yates McKendree. Recorded during the pandemic, many of the musical contributions were recorded remotely and put together by Terry and Teresa, but you would never know from listening to this excellent album.

We are well away from straight blues here, the overall sound a sophisticated blend of Rn’B, soul and blues, aided in no small measure by Darrell Leonard’s horn arrangements. Teresa has a great vocal style, equally suited to the reggae-tinged plea for unity and peace “Everybody Everybody” (Terry showing his range by leading on bottleneck slide) or the Rn’B stomper “Show Me How To Do It” that opens the album with Yates McKendree tearing it up on lead guitar.

The great Anson Funderburgh features on two tracks, both highlights of the album: “Takes One To Know One” is a soulful number with a rousing chorus and superb horn arrangement while “Wish It Into The Cornfield” (meaning to get something well out of the way and a title taken from a classic episode of The Twilight Zone) is a far tougher affair, the blaring horns and Anson’s sturdy guitar work underpinning a story of Veterans coping with the return to civilian life. The title track is another winner, more strong horn work and Teresa’s yearning vocals describe the confidence given by the love of another who always sees the positive in you.

The slinky rumba rhythms of “I Got A Love I Wanna Hold On To” bring out the seductive side of Teresa’s vocals as Billy and Terry both feature on guitar, set against a fine horn arrangement. Dean Parks was, at one time, the most frequently recorded guitarist in the world and he brings all that experience to the soul-inflected groove of “Once The World Stops Ending”, a song that looks forward to the end of the pandemic, Teresa delivering the lyrics in fervent, soulful style.

“Rise Together” is a call to arms for people to make a difference, Snuffy Walden’s stinging guitar attack a feature of this one. “When My Baby Comes Home” is another highlight, a lovely ballad with Teresa’s piano and soul-filled vocals beautifully framed by Michael Starr’s string arrangement. “All You Ever Bring Me Is The Blues” is another fine ballad with Johnny Lee Schell (Taj Mahal/Phantom Blues Band) on guitar and Paulie Cerra playing a sumptuous tenor solo. Lee Roy Parnell adds searing bottleneck to “Things Ain’t Like That” and gospel rhythms meet Darrell Leonard’s wild trumpet and David Millsap’s guitar on “Gimme Some Skin” to provide a terrific finale to the album.

So, why Volume 1? Apparently Teresa feels that she has only skimmed the surface of Texan guitarists and there are more friends who could be asked to contribute. If a second volume does appear this reviewer will be first in line for a copy! Highly recommended.

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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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 7 

imageFred Hostetler – Fred’s Blue Chair Blues

Mukthiland Records

9 songs – 42 minutes

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Fred Hostetler has a storied history that includes releasing his debut single in 1966, working in the 1970s, 80s and 90s with a variety of rock artists including Jeff Beck, Billy Squier, The Knack and Johnny Winter, and spending 15 years undertaking voluntary service in an ashram in Tamil Nadu, India. The blues has always been one of Hostetler’s primary loves and Fred’s Blue Chair Blues sees him focus on acoustic blues with a heavy Delta influence.

Fred’s Blue Chair Blues is what Hostetler calls “living room blues” and that’s as fine a description as any. This is the sound of one man singing the blues in his living room and accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. And it was recorded in Hostetler’s living room. Featuring eight original songs (all by Hostetler except for Karen Lawrence’s “Salt Tears” and “Rain On My Window Pane”), the album sounds like someone playing an intimate set for his friends and family. It actually opens with the lazy shuffle of Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights Big City” before nicely moving into “Hey Corporate Vandals”, a biting indictment of large corporations that acts as an updated, modern version of Reed’s “Big Boss Man”.

Hostetler pulls out the slide for the Delta Blues of “Deep Deep Well” while the autobiographical “Taming The Wolf” builds powerfully over its near eight minute length as Hostetler’s spoken lyrics recall his life in the blues, from listening to the radio as a child to being tied to a chair on stage in Las Vegas.

Hostetler is a fine guitar player and there is a rawness to both his playing and his singing that is both endearing and enticing. He sings in a fragile falsetto that has hints of the great Skip James although his overall tone is probably more upbeat than James’s otherworldly despondency. “Rain On My Window Pane” has a neat descending single note riff that James himself would have appreciated, while “What’s Ahead And What’s Behind” is based on Muddy’s “Can’t Be Satisfied”.

The pace picks up with “I’m A New Man” with its captivating opening line: “I didn’t believe in prayers, until they were said for me.” Hostetler sounds like he is playing with a pick on this track as he introduces a neat breakdown in the middle of the song before encouraging the listener to put down their smartphone and get out and enjoy life.

“There I Go Again” moves into acoustic rock ballad territory but fits nicely in the broader resonance of the album before “Salt Tears” ends the album on a positive note and a nod towards the cheery finger-picking of Lonnie Johnson.

As one might expect from any informal home recording session, there are occasional rough moments, but they only add to the general ambiance. Fred’s Blue Chair Blues is very enjoyable and warmly recommended for all fans of acoustic Delta blues.

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 – 5 of 7 

imageChris Daniels, Hazel Miller, Dana Marsh & Friends – What We Did

Moon Voyage Records – 2021

10 tracks; 43.55 minutes

The three main players here are based in Colorado: Chris Daniels will be known from his work with Chris Daniels & The Kings whose last album Blues With Horns, Vol 1 was well received by fans and critics alike; Hazel Miller tours with Big Head Todd & The Monsters as well as running her own band, The Collective, for whom Dana Marsh is the regular keyboard player. These songs started out as a virtual concert to raise funds for Inner City Health, the first five songs recorded live in July 2020, the second five in October. Things then grew bigger as friends from the local music scene added parts virtually. Chris plays acoustic and electric guitar and shares the vocals with Hazel, Dana adding keys and B3. The additional musicians are Freddi Gowdy (vocals on three tracks), Victor Wooten (bass on two tracks), Todd Park Mohr (guitar on two tracks), Kenny Passerelli, (bass on two tracks), Sam Bush (mandolin on one cut), Christian Teele on drums and percussion, Greg Garrison on bass, Tom Capek on keys, B3 and bass, Mark Obliger and Linda Lawson (vocal harmonies on two tracks).

The album opens with “Takin’ It To The Streets”, Michael McDonald’s mega-hit for the Doobie Brothers, the layered keys and harmony vocals adding depth and Hazel and Chris taking alternate verses. The band plays it fairly straight, apart from Victor’s bubbling bass taking the instrumental lead, a nice touch. “Born Under A Bad Sign” is a real blues tune, albeit played more slowly than most versions, certainly slower than Albert King’s original of the Booker T Jones/William Bell tune; Big Head Todd sits in on this one to good effect. However, that visit to the world of blues comes to a shuddering halt with “Cheek To Cheek”, yes, the Irving Berlin song made famous by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers; this version features Sam Bush’s mandolin but is otherwise a faithful reading of the soft shoe shuffle classic. Chris’ original “I’m Still Lookin’” is reprised from his band’s 2004 album The Spark, a latin-flavoured romantic tune with fine piano work by Dana. Hazel takes the lead on Al Jarreau’s “Could You Believe”, her gospel tones and the strong piano and organ work taking the listener to church though Hazel’s vocals were a little over the top for this reviewer..

The second set of five tunes starts with another familiar song, “What A Wonderful World”, written originally by George Weiss especially for Louis Armstrong, having been inspired by Satchmo’s ability to bring people of all races together. “Down Home Blues” has Chris picking up his slide guitar and exchanging volleys of guitar with Todd in a fast-paced interpretation of the George Jackson classic. The rest of the album is quieter: “Stealin’ Candy” must be close to how the original live broadcast must have sounded; “You’ve Got A Friend” was written by Carole King for her friend James Taylor and Chris and Hazel’s shared vocals evoke memories of both those icons of the 1970’s; “Better Days” was the title of Chris’ 2012 solo album and the wistful lyrics provide a gentle finale to the set.

As can be seen from these comments, there is not a lot of actual blues here but the album is well-produced and is in a good cause, as 20% of the proceeds will go to Inner City Health.

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 – 6 & 7 of 7 

imageThe Mojo Blues Band – Shutdown

17 tracks: 68.24 minutes

Erik Trauner – Downhome Acoustic Blues

19 tracks: 72.19 minutes

Styx Records – 2021

The Mojo Blues Band was formed in 1977 and has been very active ever since, this being their 18th album release. The band is based in Vienna, Austria, but has traveled to the States and recorded in Chicago with the likes of Taildragger, Little Mac Simmons and Willie Kent. Here we have two simultaneous releases with founding band member, lead vocalist and guitarist Erik Trauner offering a solo acoustic album alongside the band’s latest album.

Taking the band release first we have a five-piece with Erik on vocals, guitar, slide and harp, Siggi Fassl on vocals, guitar and steel guitar, Charlie Furthner on piano, guitar and ‘boogie stick’, Herfried Knapp on bass and Didi Mattersberger on drums. The material was recorded in Vienna over three days in July 2020, apart from one live track recorded in Switzerland and offered as a bonus track. The material includes eight covers alongside originals written by Erik (seven credits), Siggi (two credits) and Charlie (two credits), plus one number written by the whole band.

imageThe overall style of the band is relaxed boogie tunes, typified by the opener “Flim, Flam”. Erik’s vocals are accent-free and the playing on guitars and piano is clear and devoid of excess. The title track has plenty of slide work behind the lyrics which describe the pandemic, no work and the inevitable questions about “who’s gonna pay the bill”. Charlie and Siggi combine on an instrumental “Steel City Bounce” which fairly rockets along, propelled by the rhythm section and the boogie piano; Charlie later offers a second instrumental “Boogie Hunter”. On “Lipstick Traces On My Pillow” Erik breaks out his harp, the chugging rhythm and high-pitched harp bringing Jimmy Reed to mind; no surprise really as the band also covers “Honest I Do” and the less well-known “Crazy About Oklahoma”, so Jimmy is definitely a touch point for the band. The band does branch out from that style on tracks like “Voodoo Woman” which has plenty of percussion effects to offer a swampy feel while “Walk The Bridge” takes us into Americana territory, a song that brought Neil Young to this reviewer’s mind. The live track “Do Me Up Good” has salacious lyrics but, despite the live setting, remains at a relaxed pace.

Alongside the two Jimmy Reed tunes the covers include Eddie Boyd’s “Five Long Years” which has excellent piano but a rather disappointing vocal that does not convey the sense of despair of some versions, a lively run through of Albert King’s “Why Are You So Mean To Me” and a great take on Rocket Morgan’s “You’re Humbuggin’ Me” which gives the Fabulous Thunderbirds’ cover a good run for its money. Lazy Lester’s “They Call Me Lazy” has a back porch feel and good harp work and the less familiar “I’m Mad” comes from Junior Pettis, a one-time sideman with Magic Slim & The Teardrops.

Erik’s solo album is even more generous on time than the band’s. Playing mainly slide, Erik gives us fourteen originals and five covers. John Littlejohn’s “Bloody Tears” has that Elmore James riff and canters along nicely while Son House’s “Country Blues” sounds very authentic and is sung superbly by Erik who you would never imagine to be from Vienna on the evidence here. Three familiar covers complete the covers: Southside Jimmy Oden’s “Goin’ Down Slow” is suitably anguished, especially in the slide work, Erik sings and plays well on Big Bill Broonzy’s “Just A Dream” and plays plenty of slide on Jimmy Rogers’ “That’s Alright”.

Erik’s originals cover classic blues themes like relationships going wrong (“It’s My Own Fault”), bad luck (“I Had The Wrong Mojo”) and tough times (“Don’t Talk About The Blues”). Erik pays tribute to his friend James Poe, who wrote the sleeve notes and runs a radio show in Mississippi, on “Greenwood Blues”, played to the tune of “Crossroads”, this downhome acoustic version probably far closer to Robert Johnson than Cream’s famous cover. However, Erik also has some original themes and shows that he did not miss out on some of the Mississippi’s culinary secrets in “Piggin’ Out” although his remark to a shapely lady walking away (that she has “Junk In Her Trunk”) may prove to be less than flattering! One song appears on both these releases, “Lipstick Traces On My Pillow”, the only track to feature a second musician, drummer Peter Müller, who adds the rhythm although this version is not as immediately catchy as the band’s. Erik closes the album with some country blues in “Goin’ Home Tomorrow”, keen to get back to his loved ones.

Throughout the acoustic disc Erik demonstrates his command of the blues styles, singing and playing extremely well. For fans of acoustic blues this is one not to miss while the band disc is fun and varied, making both releases worthwhile projects.

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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