Issue 15-42 October 21, 2021

Cover photo © 2021 Tom Aguiar

 In This Issue 

Steven Ovadia has our feature interview with EG Kight. We have six Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Robbin Kapsalis & Vintage #18, Nina Simone, Carolyn Wonderland, GA-20, Al Ross & the Planets and Seth Lee Jones.

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 Featured Interview – EG Kight 

imageSinger/guitarist EG Kight knows that the blues is rooted in devilish imagery. You have Robert Johnson’s deal with the devil. You have Howlin’ Wolf singing “Evil.” But it’s not the defining characteristic of the style.

“I know the lyrics of some of the blues [are] not something you’d want to sing in church, but most of the time, it’s uplifting and makes folks smile,” she says. “I’ve been told that I have my own little music ministry.” For Kight, the blues allows her to connect with people she might not have met in a church.

“People come up to me all the time at my shows and tell me what’s going on in their lives, what’s weighing heavy on them, and many times they’ll say a certain song lifted them up.”

Kight also says she doesn’t feel a tension between her faith and the blues.

“I’ve never struggled with that,” she says. “I’ve used the blues, the songs that I write, as a vehicle to get to people…what we write and sing, it can be uplifting music. It’s the same subject matter as if I was in country or pop or whatever. It just doesn’t bother me because the Lord knows my heart.”

Kight’s blues style is rooted in lush vocals. Her 2021 album, Trio Sessions, is Kight playing acoustically with guitarist Ken Wynn and drummer Gary Porter. The format allowed her to stretch out, connecting not just to the blues, but also to her country roots, where she began her career. She calls country her education, where she learned to perform and gained exposure. But country began to change for Kight, becoming more Hollywood and pop-oriented. She says she felt like it was no longer about real people.

Feeling lost and wondering what to do next, a fan, noticing Kight often featured bluesy songs in her country set, told Kight to listen to blueswoman Koko Taylor. Kight got a cassette, Queen of the Blues, and threw it in her car stereo while driving down the interstate.

“Her growling took me by surprise, and I loved the whole feel,” Kight says. “Most people sing from their diaphragm, but I could tell she was singing from all the way down to her toes! And after listening to all the songs, I was an instant fan.”

The memory is so strong, Kight can tell you the two songs that bowled her over and captured her heart: the aforementioned “Evil” and “I Cried Like a Baby.”

“She just made me smile and laugh,” Kight says. “Just [taking] so much emotion in what she was doing. I thought, ‘Gosh. Who is this woman?'”

Powered by Taylor’s energy, Kight started putting more blues songs in her set, letting the audience know she was about to turn on the blues by putting on sunglasses.

“It didn’t matter how country the crowd I was performing for, they would start yelling, ‘Put on those glasses, girl,'” she says. “So it became so popular in my country act, at a certain point, I just jumped over into the blues.”

imageAnd it was a good move for Kight. Her move to blues has resulted in seven Blues Music Award nominations plus a 2021 Blues Blast Music Award nomination for her latest album.

Kight eventually shifted from Taylor fan to Taylor friend, with Taylor even recording some of Kight’s songs, which Kight says is one of her proudest moments as an artist. Kight also calls Taylor her mentor and “blues mama,” turning to her with professional and personal issues.

“She would always encourage me,” Kight says. “I miss her terribly.”

The blues has been a good fit for Kight, not just in a commercial sense, but also artistically.

“I started writing some [as a country artist], but nothing like I did once I got into the blues,” she says. “The blues tells it like it is, there’s no sugar coating it. If I was going to write a country song about my husband running around, I’d probably say something like ‘He’s been unfaithful and my heart is broken.’ If I was writing that same scenario in the blues, I’d say ‘My man is like a tomcat; he’s always on the prowl.’ Now, instead of it being depressing to my audience, that kind of twist on the situation always gets some laughs.”

Kight also appreciates the unvarnished nature of the blues.

“Country and blues, it’s about real life and what’s going on,” she says. “Sometimes country might make it a little more pretty. The blues is very real. And to me, it’s been a lot more fun to write.”

Part of the fun is the humor that’s possible within the blues.

“You can put [a song] in an enlightening way and a comical way that makes people smile, even though you’re talking about the same subject [as country],” she says.

She releases most of her music on Blue South, her own label. “I’ve ventured out and released a couple of albums on other labels, but I always seem to come back to Blue South,” she says. She cites 2004’s Southern Comfort as an album that helped put Blue South, and herself, on the map. Kight hasn’t had the time to add other artists to her roster, but it’s something she’d like to eventually tackle.

While Kight found a home in the blues, after coming out of country, she’s also connected to gospel. Her mother was offered a gospel recording contract, but declined it.

“I was an infant,” Kight says. “She decided she wanted to be more of a wife and a mother and not get into all that. She didn’t seem like she had time, with me being so young.” Her mom continued to sing, performing on the radio, and, of course, singing in church. “We all have choices and they direct our path in life. I don’t think she ever regretted that choice.”

Kight says her mother’s choice didn’t influence her perception of the music business, or of the importance of record contracts.

image“It didn’t phase me,” Kight says. “I could understand why she did that. It’s a major decision to make a career out of music. You have to sacrifice a lot. You certainly have to have a lot stamina and determination.”

For Kight, the sacrifices include time at home and relationships.

“I never found someone who would, I’ll say, put up with my career,” she says. “They seem to support it in the beginning but that doesn’t last too long. I can understand that. It would be hard being married to a professional musician.”

Kight’s commitment to music has required a lot, but it has also had a healing effect on her. In 2011, doctor’s diagnosed Kight with meningitis and encephalitis, two very serious diseases. It took her at least a year to recover, although she still lives with some of the fallout. Kight had to relearn things, like songwriting and guitar-playing, always hoping the skills would return, but never certain until one day, an entire song came to her.

“I just remember thinking that I would never be able to write again and one day I was walking around in my bedroom and the sun was coming out, coming through the window real bright, when the sun came up and warmed my face, it felt so good to have another day,” she recalls. “And I said, ‘I believe that’s part of a song.’ So that’s part of the song, “Holdin’ On.” It makes you appreciate everything you do. It just makes you so happy to do anything.”

That song became a collection of songs, 2014’s A New Day, an album Kight can’t quite describe: “It’s not really the blues,” she says. “I don’t know what you would call that.”

Writing and recording a new album was an important milestone for her recovery, but it doesn’t signify the conclusion of the experience.

“My self-confidence took a beating and it’s still not quite where it was before 2011, but it’s getting there,” she says. “I’m blessed to be able to do things I used to do where there are many people who have had this illness that still can’t do a lot of things. The extent of the disability is different for each person, depending on the area of the brain that was most affected, and the severity of the damage.”

She even dedicates part of her website to what she calls “Survival Story,” using it to raise awareness around encephalitis.

If A New Day doesn’t lend itself to a pithy summary, Trio Sessions, with its stripped down sound, is much easier to describe.

“I call it going back to my roots because for many years I played a lot of solo work, doing acoustic,” she says. The two guys that play in my trio, [Porter and Wynn], that I’ve been playing with for over 20 years, they’re like my brothers, and I knew what kind of musicians they were, and I just ran it by them. I said, ‘Would y’all being interested in doing something different? And simplifying this thing?’ They were all in for it.”

Kight especially enjoyed the harmonies on Trio, which took her back to her, and her mother’s, gospel roots. And while she appreciates the acoustic sound, it’s not something she’d shift to permanently.

“Don’t get me wrong,” she laughs. “Sometimes my guitar player will pick up his electric guitar and just let it fly. It gives the fans a variety.”

IMAGEKight also finds variety in photography, a hobby she’s had since she was a young woman, having even taken photos for her high school yearbook. “I’ve won quite a few ribbons for my photography,” she says. “My camera is next to my guitar as far as my loves. I just enjoy it a lot and I enjoy taking photos on the road. I’ve been out west a couple of times just to take pictures. And I take a lot of pictures of my pet goats, and the fans really love those.”

She shifted from amateur photographer to professional when Covid shut everything down. Kight had a long tour on the books and an album about to come out, and suddenly everything stopped. She used the time to write a children’s book, Things I’ve Learned From A Goat, featuring pictures of her goats. Because in addition to music and photography, Kight also raises goats. “You just got to keep trying to be creative, no matter what’s going on.” But the combination of these activities is what energizes Kight. “I always say God, goats and guitars, along with my family and friends, have gotten me through a lot,” she says, perhaps the first time all three have been invoked together in a statement of gratitude.

The United States is in a new phase of the pandemic, one that’s allowed Kight and her band to perform some outdoor shows, although some dates have been canceled, which has been frustrating, as she’s ready to get back on the road and in front of her audience.

“I can’t hardly get [by] without music,” she says “I did for a while when the pandemic hit and we all had to quit and everything closed, I kind of got away from [music] for the first time since I was a teenager, just feeling weird about it and not motivated, now that I’ve gotten back into it and we’ve been performing some, I can’t hardly go without it. I can’t hardly go a day without picking up my guitar now. It makes you feel better.”

Everyone take a different path to and through the blues. Kight’s is no more or less circuitous than anyone else’s but what’s interesting is how all of the stops along the way, in gospel, country, and church, have informed her blues sensibility. When hearing my suggestion that Trio had a darker feel from her other work, Kight suggested it’s more a result of the natural growth that takes place as we age and mature.

“I didn’t mean for it to have a darker feel,” she says. “As the years go by and we experience life, as we all do, songs may turn out a little different from time to time. Maybe my writing has changed a little, but it’s always been about relationships, getting out of bad ones, or wanting to get out and can’t, or falling in love when you least expect it.”

They’re all universal themes given a bluesy twist in Kight’s hands.

Visit EG’s website at

Reviewer Steven Ovadia interviews blues artists about their songwriting process for Working Mojo.

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6

imageRobbin Kapsalis & Vintage #18 – Soul Shaker

11 tracks/43 min

Vintage #18 was born in the Washington DC area between open mic sessions and jams. This is Robbin Kapsalis’ first and only band. She’s been at it since 2013 and she and the band have a great sound and good synergy.

Born in Chicago and raised in Atlanta, Robbin and company strive to created a sound rooted in Motown and Stax; sassy but not overdone, blending influences ranging from Sharon Jones and Koko Taylor and Aretha Franklin. She raised a family before embarking on her musical career and she’s doing a fine job with her life’s dream of music!

The band behind lead vocalist Kapsalis is Bill Holter on guitar, Mark Chandler on bass, Alex Culdell on drums and percussion, Ron Holloway on sax for four tracks, and Thomas Williams and Vince McCool each on trumpet for different pairs of songs as part of the horn section with Holloway The main part of the show is Robbin Kapsalis, but this band is excellent in her support and all do a fine job with this effort.

The album opens with a great groove on the cut “Shake It Baby,” with Kapsalis showcasing her powerful alto voice and the band doing a fine job backing her on this Buddy Guy tune. A strong guitar solo and a slick horn arrangement make this one even better. It’s a great start! “Lost Souls” is a nice original with Robbin singing at a more up tempo pace as she states she doesn’t want to , “Lose her soul.” Another well done guitar solo and more fine support make this one shine, too. Another original is next, “Boog A Loo.” Kapsalis asks her man in no uncertain terms to show her how to boog a loo. Sexy, provocative and fun, there is a cool sax solo here and then later another good, stinging guitar solo to enjoy.

Deb Ryder’s “Living Large” follows, a slow and more thoughtful piece. The guitar solo here is poignant and well done again and Kapsalis sings with restraint. “You Don’t Deserve Me” is another original with midtempo pacing as Robbin tells her man what the title states– she’s done with him. The bridge mid-song allows Kapsalis to tell her ex what she thinks and serves as an intro to another nice guitar solo. Up next is “Jukin’”, where Kapsalis sings a swinging number about the juke joint back in the hood. She sings in a sultry manner with emotion and the band goes through the paces behind her. Holter once again offers up a very well done solo.

“From The Heart Of The One” follows, a ballad with Kapsalis fully restrained but still emotive in this simpler song. This one is all about her and her excellent delivery; very cool stuff! “Silver Spoon” is next, another original of straight up blues with a driving beat and two exciting guitar solos. The classic “Fever” gets covered with Robbin’s own take on the song. She goes full sexy and sultry here as she lays it all out for the listener. Holter solos with slow and interesting style as the bass lays out a slick backing groove both times. Lil Ed Williams’ “ The Cannonball” is up next and Kapsalis blasts off just like one in this rocking good time of a song. Guitars wail and Robbin offers up an equally powerful performance. The album concludes with an extended version of “You Don’t Deserve Me.” More guitar, more cool vocals and more good music as Kapsalis delivers a final cut with guts and gusto.

This set of tunes offers the listener a great listen, mixing well done covers with some fin e original tunes. The horn arrangements are well done, the guitar work is sold and not overdone, and the backline is very strong. I enjoyed this album a lot and I think blues fans looking for a great vocalist backed by a great band will , too!

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.


 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 6 

imageNina Simone – Little Girl Blue

BMG – 2021

11 tracks: 45.53 minutes

What a debut this must have been, as Nina Simone burst on to the scene with this disc! Recorded over 14 hours in a single day in New York in December 1957, the album was released in 1959 by Bethlehem Records and was an immediate success. Nina was classically trained and fond of Bach and Liszt, but also well versed in the African-American folk songs that she heard in her youth in a musical family. She studied at the Julliard School in NYC, taught music privately and played in Atlantic City. Sid Nathan, owner of Bethlehem Records offered her the chance to record and paired her with bassist Jimmy Bond and drummer Albert ‘Tootie’ Heath as her rhythm section. Nina is on piano and vocals and, at times, it is extraordinary to realize that this young lady was in the recording studio for the first time.

With her contralto voice and well-developed piano skills, Nina was already the full package and this debut disc is terrific. In the 50’s the dividing line between blues and jazz was far less distinct than today, but Nina also adds all manner of subtle quotes from outside both genres. She opens with Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo” and demonstrates her phenomenal piano technique for the first minute before she gives us that immortal first line: “You ain’t never been blue until you’ve had that mood indigo”. It is a striking start to the album and the fast-paced version leans on the rhythm section’s peerless swing which allows Nina to explore widely in her solos. “Don’t Smoke In Bed” (Willard Robison) is reprised from Peggy Lee’s repertoire and its funereal pace is separated by some very classical sounding piano interludes. Arthur Hamilton is best remembered as the author of “Cry Me A River” but Nina selects another torch song, “He Needs Me”, on which she sounds vulnerable yet self-confident at the same time, her deep vocal underlined by lovely piano highlights. The title track “Little Boy Blue” was a Rogers and Hart song from 1935 Broadway show Jumbo but Nina was undoubtedly influenced by Ella Fitzgerald’s 1956 cover, albeit adding her own subtle changes, like the motif from “Good King Wenceslas” at the beginning, repeated later in the song between verses. The pace quickens for “Love Me Or Leave Me” (Gus Kahn/Walter Donaldson), a song that goes back to 1928, Nina’s fingers flashing across the keys, even including a Bach-like fugue mid-tune. The same writing team provides the joyous “My Baby Just Cares For Me”: on the original LP that brought Side A to a halt but was not selected as a single at the time; now everyone knows it because of its revival in the 1980’s after being used in a perfume advert, probably making it Nina’s best known performance.

The second side of the LP started with “a cool blues instrumental”, “Good Bait”, written by Count Basie and Tadd Dameron. Again opening with a solo piano exposition, Nina takes her time, the rhythm section only entering at 01.45. It’s a moody piece, very much a slow blues in feel, and includes a short feature for bassist Jimmy. “Plain Gold Ring” is a less familiar song, written by George Stone, one of several pseudonyms used by Earl Solomon Burroughs who was the co-writer of “Great Balls Of Fire”. No Rn’R here though as Nina’s ethereal vocals are underpinned by insistent bass and drums. The instrumental version that Nina gives us of Rogers & Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is astonishingly creative and a million miles away from the version sung every week here in the U.K. by the fans of Liverpool F.C. who adopted it as their anthem in the 1960’s! The pace of the song is slowed right down though the refrain is recognizable as Nina ranges far and wide across the tune and what sounds like bowed bass and cymbals add to the doom-laden feel. However, the album is probably best remembered for Nina’s take on DuBose Heyward, George and Ira Gershwin’s “I Loves You, Porgy” (from Porgy & Bess). This was the single taken from the album at the time of its release and it very much launched Nina’s career. Beautiful piano and vocals just need to be heard and appreciated. The album closes with the only original here, “Central Park Blues”, a seven minute instrumental which highlights the close interplay between the trio.

Nina Simone passed away in 2003 and is fondly remembered for many great performances and recordings, but this debut is definitely a joy to hear. Not sure why this is being reissued now, but my recommendation to readers is to set time aside and listen on headphones to fully appreciate one of the great debut albums.

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 – 3 of 6 

imageCarolyn Wonderland –Tempting Fate

Alligator Records

10 tracks.43 minutes

Carolyn Wonderland toured the globe with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers for the past three years. She proudly is the first woman to handle the guitar for Mayall’s band and she is certainly up to the task. I’m not big on labeling guitar players by their gender; suffice it to say that Carolyn Wonderland is a hugely talented master of the six stringed instrument and can hold her own with any guitar player.

Growing up in Texas and fronting her own bands in public since age 15, Wonderland has produced some great music over her career. Her signing to Alligator Records and this brand new release really showcases her talent as a guitar player, singer and songwriter. Mixing truly interesting covers with fantastic original songs, Wonderland has created a big hit with this new record. I fully expect it to garner notice in the next sets of music awards for 2022.

The base band is Wonderland on guitars and vocals, Bobby Perkins on bass and Kevin Lange on drums (and backing vocals on the next to last track). Produced by Dave Alvin, he also appears on rhythm guitar on three cuts and does second lead on the final cut. Red Young plays organ and piano on four tracks and Marcia Ball adds her piano to the second track. Cindy Cashdollar plays lapsteel on two tracks, Shelly King’s backing vocals grace three tracks and Jimmie Dale Gilmore sings with Carolyn on the Dylan tune. Last but not least is Jan Flemming who plays accordion on a couple of tracks.

The CD opens with some wickedly cool lapsteel guitar by Wonderland on “Fragile Peace and Certain War,” a rowdy, country blues as Wonderland howls out the lyrics and blazes on guitar. She continues with a slick Texas shuffle entitled “Texas Girl and Her Boots.” Carolyn sings and plays with passion and the barrelhouse piano by Ball makes this cut even better. Next is “Broken Hearted Blues,” some straight up blues with grit and big emotion. “Fortunate Few” also has some nice piano as Wonderland again sings with grit and wails on guitar. “Crack In the Wall” hearkens back to outlaw country with cool lapsteel and accordion. It’s a pretty, slow dance song that would do any Texas dance hall proud; well done! Wonderland sings with desperation and great feeling here. At one point, the chorus reminded me a little of Kenny Rogers’ “Lucille” as it flowed on by.

“The Laws Must Change” is a John Mayall song, with organ and a big, upfront guitar presence and a great solo by Wonderland. She sings and howls with great effect here. The second cover is Billy Jo Shaver’s “Honey Bee” where we get some more cool squeezebox and nice harmonies, very cajun and very cool sounding. Wonderland move into the lounge as she croons with the tinkling of the piano and beat of the bass and brushes on her original “On My Feet Again.” She even whistles for us and plays some thoughtful guitar. Bob Dylan’s “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” is next. Carolyn shares fronting the band with Gilmore. Lapsteel and electric guitar make themselves known in this one, another great cut. Jerry Garcia’s “Loser” take things home on the album. Wonderland and Alvin play some pretty guitar licks as Carolyn sings this Grateful Dead classic. It builds and builds in fine fashion and serves as a superb ending to this wonderful Wonderland CD.

Carolyn has been honing her craft since her teens and this is her 11th album. She is a remarkable guitar player and singer. I have always enjoyed her work, and this is perhaps her best effort ever– there are six prime original tunes and four excellent covers. The band and backing musicians are outstanding and the overall production is amazing. This is an album that belongs in your collection– I highly recommend it!

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.


 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 6 

IMAGEGA-20 – GA-20 Does Hound Dog Taylor: Try It…You Might Like It!

Colemine Records in partnership with Alligator Records

10 songs – 39 minutes

The reputations of some blues acts seem to be burnished by the passing of the years. Others, for a variety of reasons, may be respected or acknowledged but they do not inspire the awestruck terms of reference that are bestowed upon the likes of Muddy, Little Walter or Howlin’ Wolf.

One such act is the six-fingered slide guitarist Hound Dog Taylor and his band, the Houserockers. How good were they in their prime? Well, good enough for a young shipping clerk at Delmark Records, Bruce Iglauer, to set up his own record company specifically to record them back in 1971, and we all know what has happened to Alligator Records over the last 50 years.

The high energy GA-20 have been making some serious waves since they formed in Boston in 2018. Their 2019 debut album, Lonely Soul, debuted at #2 on the Billboard Blue Charts and highlighted their love of heavy traditional blues, R&B and rock’n’roll from the late 1950s and early 1960s. They are also the perfect band to produce a tribute album to Hound Dog Taylor, one of their prime inspirations. Like Taylor, GA-20 eschew the use of a bassist, instead creating a glorious racket through guitarist Matt Stubbs, guitarist/vocalist Pat Faherty and drummer Tim Carman. Unapologetically raw and raucous, their music is muscular, infectious and dynamic and successfully treads that fine line between traditional and modern.

Taylor famously declared that “When I die they’ll say, ‘he couldn’t play shit, but he sure made it sound good!’” He was wrong about his technical musical abilities, of course. Very few people can play rough-edged, unvarnished Chicago blues like he could. Thankfully, this sort of unpolished, good-time music is absolutely in GA-20’s bailiwick. Recorded live in the studio in under two days, using vintage equipment to re-create Taylor’s sound, Try It…You Might Like It is a glorious, enchanting celebration of the spirit and vibe of Hound Dog Taylor.

All 10 songs are Hound Dog classics, kicking off with “She’s Gone” and moving through the likes of “Let’s Get Funky”, “Give Me Back My Wig” (with superb off-the-wall slide guitar from Faherty), “It Hurts Me Too”, “Sadie” and “Hawaiian Boogie.” There is a visceral energy to the performances, even on the slower tracks such as “Sitting At Home Alone.”

Stubbs produced the album, with engineering by Matthew Girard and he has captured a wonderfully timeless quality to the songs.

Try It…You Might Like It is a superb release, an outstanding throwback to the harsh but irresistible intimacy of Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers. This is pretty much an essential purchase for any fan of classic Chicago 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 6 

imageAl Ross & the Planets – Blue Crystal


CD: 8 Songs, 39 Minutes

Styles: Ensemble Blues, Mellow Blues, All Original Songs

Blue Crystal, the newest remarkable release from the UK’s Al Ross and the Planets, has a lot of good things going for it. It’s mellow, moody, and the perfect background music at a nightclub where the lighting and décor remain a deep shade of sapphire. However, to paraphrase a Wendy’s commercial from the 1980s: “Where’s the blues?” You’ll have to listen hard to find it. One’s best bet is track seven, “Checking out the Vibe,” as close to a blues rocker as this CD offers. It’s got rumbling, earthy guitar, a danceable beat, and hot horns to complement Al Ross’ throw-down vocals. Several of the other original selections are heavy on piano and pensive atmosphere. They remind me of the best tunes of the Steve Miller Band, seamlessly blending jazz, blues, and soul. That’s why they’re worth hearing. If you’re looking for a party album, though, the vibe on this one may not be right. Is it a cocktail party? Go ahead and start it up.

In the early ‘90s, Al Ross & The Planets were one of the most popular live bands in London. Laura Lee Davies (Time Out London Music Editor) claimed that seeing a live Planets gig was “one of the best nights out in London.” In 2018, the band got back together to record a number of their original songs at Abbey Road studios, and to start performing again at venues across the UK including The Half Moon, Boisdale, The Cavern Club, The Troubadour, Kensington Roof Gardens and The Hard Rock Cafe. Their debut album, The Planets One, was released to critical acclaim. In January 2020, the band returned to Abbey Road to record a new batch of songs written by Al Ross and Alex Mungo. Halfway through recording, COVID-19 struck. Members would soon be sidelined by the virus, travel around London became forbidden, and — when sessions did finally resume in May — there was a long list of safety measures.

As band members became unable to take part, Al hired various session players to fill the gaps. He asked his longtime friend Lyndon Connah to play keyboards and assist with production. Connah’s extensive resume includes work with George Michael, Joe Cocker, Nik Kershaw, and Go West. Next, Anthony Broza at Wienerworld suggested blues guitarist Norman Beaker. A native of Manchester, Norman has been involved with the British blues scene since the 1960s and has toured and/or recorded with Van Morrison, Chuck Berry, and B.B. King, among many others. Additional musicians on Blue Crystal include Tansy Garrod (violin), Paul Jefferies (double bass), Jamie Masters (guitar), Holly Petrie (backing vocals), Jamie Wall (trumpet), Alex Ward (lead guitar), and the Sing Gospel Choir.

Another song I’d like to recommend is the opener, “Crossroads.” It sounds nothing like the version every blues fan knows, but rather a gorgeous meditation on “the point of no return.” With the craziness in the world today, to what or whom can we cling? The ones we love. “I remember you,” sings the ensemble in lyrical harmony, bringing CSNY to mind, “the things you do, the things we said. I will make it through, and thoughts of you go through my head.”

Blue Crystal may not be what most people think of as blues, but it sure is lovely!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 41 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 – 6 of 6 

imageSeth Lee Jones – Flathead

Horton Records

9 songs, 39 minutes

The Blues is all about self expression. Some of the most impactful Bluesmen and women are those who developed a distinct, highly unique and instantly recognizable style: Bessie Smith’s Big Bang wail, Otis Rush’s tremulous pulling guitar bends, Howlin’ Wolf’s monumental force of nature growl, Albert Collins’ ice pickin’ open tuning jabs. Blues musicians do well when they find a unique way to express themselves, to channel the ancestors in their own way. Tulsa, OK’s Seth Lee Jones has done that. A luthier with his own SJL guitar company, Jones is a gravely singer with a powerful voice. However, it is his unique guitar technique that makes his new record Flathead stand out. A slide guitarist, Jones uses palm bender pedals installed at the bridge of his guitar along with a volume pedal to create a keening, steel guitar effect. Processed through a warm distortion heavy rig and at times using a reverse effect (think post-Revolver Beatles), Jones plays a style he simply calls “loud guitar.”

Flathead is a live-to-tape covers record of Jones and his power trio of Bo Hallford on bass and Matt Teegarden on drums. This band is a psychically linked unit forged by years of a standing Thursday night gig at Tulsa music institution The Colony. The band has that hard to accomplish balance of air and fluidity crossed with power and thump that classic power trios such as ZZ Top or the Billy Cox/Mitch Mitchell era Jimi Hendirx Experience have. Mike Satawake adds lead work to a few songs creating layers of guitar fun.

Flathead is a flash of inventive reinterpreting of at times well trodden material. Starting with worn out classic “I Can’t Be Satisfied” the listener is in for a surprise. Jones’ unique bag of techniques, facile hybrid slide/fretting and burly tone transport this song. It’s similar to the psycho talented re-imagining of Jimi’s version of “Killing Floor” from the 60’s. Other classics such as Johnny Winter’s “It Was Rainin’” with it’s crazy cool reverse guitar riffage and the Wolf classic “You Gonna Wreck My Life” with it’s lugubrious take on Hubert Sumlin’s iconic style are inventive and surprising.

Where this band really shines is the interpretation of Roots/Americana classics. Roger Miller’s “Half A Mind” is less Cowboy lonesome and more Southern Gothic morose. Don Williams’s “Tulsa Time” (one would imagine being a required cover for all Tulsa based bands) chugs with a reckless zoom with the turn around riff sounding more Prog Rock then Cowboy Jazz. Ray Charles’ “Mary Ann” with help from Satawake, struts forward with a loud hard gate. And the classic “Driving Wheel” interpreted from the Al Green version, replaces the Soul fire of Green with Rock lava.

Seth Lee Jones is a guitar lover. A talented guitar builder and professionally trained guitarist Jones displays an intimacy with the instrument few achieve. Flathead is a spectacularly performed live set. To hear this crew in front of a live audience check out 2018’s Live at the Colony. Working as companion pieces, the records document this uniquely talented musician and his irreverent take on Roots music.

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.

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