Issue 15-44 November 4, 2021

Cover photo © 2021 Bob Hakins

 In This Issue 

Mark Thompson has our feature interview with Sonny Green. We have six Blues reviews for you this week including new music from The DogTown Blues Band, Ricci/Krown, Brenda Taylor, Ben Levin, Al Basile and Boogie Beasts.

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 Featured Interview – Sonny Green 

imageNominated for a 2021 Blues Blast Music Award and a Blues Music Award, both in the Soul Blues Album category, the album Found! One Soul Singer served as the coming out party for the veteran singer Robert “Sonny” Green. Despite decades in the business, playing clubs and opening for some of the biggest stars in the blues world, Green’s discography was limited to a few rare 45 rpm records from more than 45 years ago.

Recorded at the increasingly famous Greaseland Studios, the magical lair of Kid Andersen, who plays guitar throughout, the backing band includes other well-known players including Jim Pugh on the Hammond B3 organ, Chris Burns on piano & clavinet, Derrick “D’Mar” Martin on drums plus Terry Hanck and Sax Gordon making guest appearances on saxophone. The set-list ranges from tracks recorded by Bobby “Blue” Bland and Little Milton, Syl Johnson, Willie Nelson, several by Rick Estrin, and finishing with a stirring rendition of the Ted Taylor classic, “Be Ever Wonderful.”

Green was born in Monroe, Louisiana in 1942. Like many of his generation he learned to sing in the church.

“I started off singing gospel when I was about six years old. Then I met this guy, (Mighty) Sam McClain, in school. He was a great singer. We were together for years. He was my right hand man. We got started together, since we were both from Monroe.”

When Green left Louisiana, McClain took over his spot as the lead vocalist for the Melvin Underwood band. At that time, Green was touring with saxophonist Big Jay McNeely, who had a major hit in 1959 with the song “There’s Something On Your Mind.” The singer on the record was Sonny Warner, who had left McNeely to start his own career. Green did his best to recreate the excitement of the record.

“I met Jay in LA. A promoter wanted to put me on a show with him. A lot of people thought I was the one singing on the record. That’s why Jay started calling me “Sonny”. I worked with him for three or four years. I would do tours and shows with Jay, otherwise I was working in the clubs steady six nights a week. Then I was doing after-hours clubs too. I did that for about 20 years. I have been doing three or four nights a week lately. All along, I just sang with backing by the house band at each club.”

Listening to Green sing, you will definitely pick up on stylistic nods to two of his primary influences, Bobby “Blue” Bland and Johnnie Taylor. The opening track on his latest album, “I’m So Tired,” is a lesser-known Bland recording that finds Green elevating the level of passion over a modern, funky arrangement complete with horn accompaniment.

“I was with Bobby for a long time. We had known each other from my time in Louisiana. We got to be friends, then I was opening up for him for awhile. After that, I got with Tyrone Davis, then Johnnie Taylor, and finally I worked with Little Milton. Bobby would just stand up there with the microphone and sing his heart out. He didn’t worry too much about showmanship. I would be singing with Bobby’s band, which was something else.

“The band that Noel put together for my album, they have that Bobby Bland band sound with the brass – trombone, tenor and baritone saxophones, and trumpet. That’s a fat sound! You don’t hear that kind of sound much these days, you really don’t. A lot of the stuff these days is synthesized. I like the fact that the band backing me now, we all travel together.”

imageLooking for more action, Green settled in Amarillo,Texas for a long spell, playing dates all over the state. In 1964, he cut his first record, a 45 rpm on the Whip Records label, that featured his original “People Talking ‘Bout Me,” backed by the Famous Shades, who recorded an instrumental for the flip side.

“I wasn’t really doing anything in Louisiana, it was so dead, so I just left. There was nothing going on in Amarillo, so I put a three piece band together. We toured around and were a top drawing act in the state of Texas. I was there for 18 years. And I laid some blues on them!”

Hearing that there might be more opportunities for him in Los Angeles, Green decided to make the move out West, which immediately paid off as he quickly found work in a number of clubs hosting live music. Eventually he connected with Matt Hill, who became the singer’s manager. Hill released several more records under Green’s name on his Hill Records label, which also had releases by singer Z.Z. Hill of “Down Home Blues” fame, Matt Hill’s brother.

“When I first got out here, I was at this club, and they called me up to sing. When I finished, the owner told me I had a job, a lifetime job. It was the same at every club I went to. So I was thinking that this is really all right. When I met Matt, he told me that I was bad, and that he wanted to record me.

“Matt said he was going to call me the next day. You know that you hear stuff like that all the time. But he called the next day, saying he had a deal for me. I got on that right away. I had done a couple of releases on the Fuller label. Then Matt got me on United Artists, getting me a big check. Then I got on Matt’s label and I ain’t looked back since. We did “If You Want Me To Keep On Loving You,” “Jody’s On The Run,” “Don’t Write a Check With Your Mouth (That Your Body Can’t Cash). All of that stuff was rolling! As far as getting a whole album recorded under my name, I guess it was just never my time until now. I’m 78 years old, and I am hoping to make 88, and then 98 years old.

“Noel got the project started . We have known each other for awhile. He heard me at show that Cadillac Zack did in Tarzana, a suburb of Los Angeles. He handled all of the details, including selecting the songs for the project. I think Noel did a beautiful job. I love the record, everybody loves it! I have been getting calls and compliments from all over. He has taken me to another level. It has been a blessing.”

The Executive Producer on the project, Noel Hayes, is a long-time blues fan, getting hooked on the music in the late 1970s. He was the host of a three hour afternoon blues program on KPOO FM for several decades and attended countless blues shows.

“It started out just as fun thing with the music that I loved. I would bring in local artists that people didn’t know about or different artists that were coming to town. At the same time, I was traveling across the country, meeting blues bands and musicians that I would then bring out to the West coast to do shows. I love sharing the music with anyone that I possibly could.

image“I have always loved music. I grew up in a broken family, so I have been on my own when I was 14 years old. The apartment I was living in was in a predominantly black neighborhood. They were playing a lot of blues, but I didn’t get it at the time. I was more into rock music. In 1977, I saw Led Zeppelin, one of the worst shows I ever saw. A few nights later, I heard Charlie Musselwhite at a club. I had a chance to talk with him, and learned that Charlie was playing regularly on the weekends in San Francisco. Charlie was the one that pushed me to go head-over-heels in love with blues. I moved to San Francisco because of that.”

“Later on, in the last 20 years, I have tried to find people whose career was not where it should have been, so I tried to help them out by getting them recorded. The first one that I helped was the late singer Frank Bey. I brought Frank out here, set him up with guitarist Deacon JonAnthony Paule and his band, even helped pick out songs for him to do. More recently I was involved with Sonny, and Tia Carroll’s disc, which is also on Jim Pugh’s Little Village Foundation label. My upcoming project is a recording with another under-recorded vocalist, Diunna Greenleaf, from Texas.

“All of these people, I have been to their houses, and they have been to mine. I like to have them over, have them sing a lot of songs, and try to figure out what will work for them. And try to find songs that other people would enjoy as well.”

Hayes met Green at a club in the Bay are circa early 1980s, when Green was singing with Deacon Jones, a noted organist and former trumpet player who was a founding member of Baby Huey & the Babysitters. Many years passed before Hayes has a chance to hear Green again, this time in a Los Angeles club.

“That got me to start researching Sonny’s music, it was around 2000 or so. At the time, all I could find were his 45 RPM records. To me, those records are just badass. So I got in touch with Sonny, we started hanging out, and when it felt comfortable, I said let’s make a real, whole record. I told him that I would pick out the musicians, the songs, so that all Sonny had to do was sing the songs. He loved the idea.

“Sonny is such a really cool, sweet guy. He is fun and upbeat, reminding me of a 14 year old kid. He runs 100 mph with loads of energy, and when he gets tired, he will literally fall asleep right in front of you. He has that Johnnie Taylor style. Sonny is in that same grain as a singer. He is certainly enjoying the attention and notoriety that the album has generated, since he was pretty well unknown prior to that.

He has received a lot of great publicity, which is great to see for such a sweet, genuine guy.”

Despite all the time he spent opening for several of the greatest blues singers, Green would categorize himself as a soul singer. And Hayes would probably agree. He based the title for Green’s project, Found! One Soul Singer, on a 1967 release by Johnnie Taylor on Stax Records entitled Wanted: One Soul Singer.

Green offers this summation on the essence of his style. “I have worked with some other people, with Bobby Rush being one of them. I love his style but he is not really a blues man. Bobby is good. If you come to hear me sing, you are going to get a soul singer with some blues. I am working that stage, and I come down off of it to get on the floor. They call me Rev. Green. I won’t be playing with the audience, I’ll be preaching to them! People come out to feel good, so that is what you’ve got to do, make them feel good. I can’t come out there stressing about all of my worries. I have to feel good so that I can make the audience feel good.”

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying the sun and retirement. He is the past President of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and a former member of the Board of Directors for the Blues Foundation. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!


 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6

iageThe DogTown Blues Band – Search No More

RVL Music

10 tracks/39:2

Richard ‘Loob” Lubovitch has put together a cool album of mostly covers of some mixed and interesting stuff with the DogTown Blues Band. Featuring two great front men in Kaspar Addo and Bill Barrett, the nine covers are all handled well vocally and the backing music is all done with great taste and musicianship.

Loob is originally from Chicago and spent lots of time out west. He’s been a sideman on guitar for many greats and is a talented player. Addo hails from England and brings his soulful blues and R&B style into his songs. Barrett is a noted blues and jazz harpist who also is an amazing singer. Bassist Trevor ware is solid as is drummer Lance Lee. Both have played with many a noted act. Marcus Watkins adds his fine guitar on three tracks. Last but certainly not least is Wayne Peet on all things keyboard. Hisorgan throughout adds a super sound to every cut; and he also plays piano and acted as recording engineer, all jobs well done!

Percy Mayfield’ “Cooking in Style” opens the album and it’s a swinging tune with Barrett on vocals and harp. There’s a great groove and the chromatic harp is well done by this harp master. The organ also adds nicely to the mix. Another Mayfield cut follows, “River’s Invitation.” Kaspar Abbos fronts the band here in this down tempo and cool blues. “You Better Believe It” follows with Barrett featured again. This one’s an old, New Orleans rocking tune done originally by Paul Gayton and Barrett nails it both musically and vocally. Willie Dixon’s classic “You Shook Me” has Abbos on vocals and some nice guitar work by Lubovich. The approach for the cover is somewhere between Chicago and Led Zeppelin, with a heavier nod to the Chicago side of things and it’s well done. The lone original cut is next, Luvovitch’s “All Night.” It’s a slick instrumental blending blues and jazz with great support from the backline. The guitar is thoughtful and sublime, the organ is a nice part of the song and it’s a well crafted piece overall.

The band goes back to Louisiana for the following cut, Jimmy Dotson’s “Search No More.” Abbo does a fine job on the vocals and Watkins take the lead on guitar. Soulful and sublime, it’s a great cover. Little Richard’s “Miss Ann” follows as Abbo growls a bit as he leads the effort in another sweet cover. There’s both a nice guitar and organ solo here, too. Abbo continues on “Glory of Love,” a Billy Hill tune from the 1930”s that Benny Goodman first made famous and countless others have also down. Dog Town makes it their own with emotive vocals, more well done organ, and some pretty piano by Wayne Peet. Barrett returns to take us to church a bit on “I Wonder.” First released during the Second World War by then Private Cecil Grant on a 78 rpm record with vocals and piano, the band here expands on the sound with guitar, organ and Barrett’s chromatic; it’s got a nice feel to it. The album concludes to the Doobie Brother’s “Long Train Coming.” Abbo sings, Barrett blows harp,and the tune swings in more of a jazzy manner rather than the original. Lubovitch and Martin share the guitar leads; it’s an interesting take.

The album flies by with ten songs taking barely thirty-nine minutes. Lots of old school songs; nice, interesting covers with lots of creative arranging and a cool original tune make this a fun ride from top to bottom. Blending blues and jazz seamlessly, the DogTown Blues Band delivers a fine new CD for all to enjoy!

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 

imageRicci/Krown – City Country City

Gulf Coast Records

12 tracks

Jason Ricci and Joe Krown are both New Orleans-based artists and this is their debut duo album, City Country City. Jason Ricci on harp is a multiple Blues Music Award-winner, and organ/piano player Joe Krown is renowned and respected throughout the industry . Here they are teamed up as Ricci/Krown on this brand new CD, City Country City. It is described as, “A retro soul-infused outing that features Jason’s gutsy vocals and stellar harmonica, overlaid with Joe’s melodic and earthy organ playing.” The advertising goes on to say, “City Country City brings back the sound and feel of early 1960s jazz/blues with an original sound all its own.” I can’t say it any better myself!

The trio of performers here are Jason Ricci, who handles the harp and also adds vocals on seven tracks, Joe Krown, who plays piano and Hammond B3 organ, and Doug Belote, who handles the drums. Ricci penned four tracks, Krown wrote another while the other cuts are a pretty wild assortment of really nice and quite interesting covers. Blues, soul, funk and a little NOLA sound are blended together is this superb new CD.

The title track kicks things off. It’s a slick instrumental with loads of glorious harp and funky organ work. An old track from War’s 1972 album The World Is A Ghetto, Ricci and Krown strip the tune down a bit with just three players but do not lose an ounce of the amazing feel of the original. Sans horns and the rest of the band, this trio still delivers a powerful but shortened version of the cut; less jazzy perhaps, but equally funky and but more bluesy and quite cool. Track two is “Down ‘n Dirty” and more of straight up original blues written by Krown with delightful layers of harp and organ to savor. “Badger The Witness” follows, a sweet, slow, soulful blues with Jason growling and howling as front man and Joe nailing the solo organ. Another nice original track. “My Mama Told Me” is next, a great old Joe Sample funk number from 1976. Krown’s organ and piano work is stellar here and he adds bass line to make this rich and wonderful. Ricci blows some awesome harp that also makes this a truly special sounding cut. Next is “Feel Good Funk,” with Ricci singing his heart out in this upbeat and funky song. “It Starts With Me” is another great original with soulful harp that emulates lead vocals, a pretty and slow number. Ricci plays with deep feeling and Krown’s piano adds to the mood in this somber and soulful cut.

Ricci also wrote “Down At The Juke,” a great song where he sings and plays emotionally and Crown adds his magic. Grant Green’s instrumental “Upshot” from his Carryin’ On album. Replacing Green’s guitar and the sax with wild yet controlled harp and wicked organ including an amazing bass line, this version rocks with amazing soul and funk. Up next is Charles Brown’s “Driftin’ Blues” where Ricci greases up his harp for some savory slow blues licks, Ricci opens with harp and them lays out some nice vocals and Krown adds equally wonderful soloing on organ. Taj Mahal’s “Jimmy Smith Strut” follows that, where Ricci and Krown offer some more fantastic instrumental work. “Just A Play Boy” mixes verses by Jason, Sonny Boy Williamson II and Don Robey with Ricci fronting the entire effort. It’s a swinging cut with Ricci grinding out the lyrics and Krown playing some great barrelhouse piano. The beat and groove are fantastic as Belote caps off his great work with another standout performance. Ricci, of course, blows some more mean harp. The album concludes with the Bobby Gentry classic “Ode To Billy Joe” where the tone and timber of the album downshift gears as Ricci’s harp emulates Gentry’s vocals. It works and the album draws to a close is a somber yet ultra-cool manner. The organ punctuates the harp as Krown interjects his stuff between Jason’s blows and then Joe joins in on the lead in a seamless transition as the two share the work. I was wondering how they would pull this off and I loved it.

Ricci contacted Mike Zito about this project; Zito was intrigued and jumped on it. Produced and recorded at Jack Meile Production Studios, this new album on Zito’s Gulf Coast Records is a sure winner and will garner some attention for the next sets of blues music awards. Ricci plays harp as no one can and shows great musicality and even restraint as he showcases his amazing talent. Krown gives us 110% as he demonstrates why Kenny Wayne Shepherd has him in his band and why he is in demand as one of the world’s premier blues and New Orleans organ and keyboard players. Belote is also no slouch and shows us why he is also in demand as a great drummer. This is the real deal and I truly loved it. Go get this one- you will play it again and again!

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 – 3 of 6 

imageBrenda Taylor – Buggy Ride

Wolf Records – 2021

12 tracks: 48.14 minutes

Brenda Taylor is the eldest daughter of the late Vera and Eddie Taylor; Vera was a singer and Eddie, of course, was Jimmy Reed’s guitar player for many years. Brenda has performed in Chicago and at the Chicago Blues Festival, but this is her first album under her own name and was recorded and mixed by Blaise Barton on home turf in Chicago, September 2018. Sadly, since the sessions for this album, Brenda’s brother Eddie Taylor Jr has also passed, these probably being amongst his final recordings. The band is classic Chicago with Eddie Jr and Illinois Slim on guitar, Freddie Dixon (son of Willie) on bass, Harmonica Hinds and Illinois Slim sharing harp duties and another Taylor brother, Tim, on drums. The material is what you might hear at a club like Blue Chicago, a mix of familiar blues classics and a few originals.

Whether the world needs another version of “Sweet Home Chicago” is doubtful, but this is a good one, with solo spots for everyone and drummer Tim really driving the band along. “I Found Out” is one of mother Vera’s songs, a classic tale of infidelity, with the twist that the wronged woman is planning to get a red dress and stand on the corner like her rival “and have more fun than I’ve ever had” – that’ll teach him! Brenda adapts the JB Lenoir song to “Mama Talk To Your Son” and it’s a lively version that bounds along well.

Brenda’s first original is “Better Look Out For Me”, an uptempo tune with a stop/start rhythm. Brenda is mad and determined to stop her guy running around, so is on her way to buy a 45, sounds like a dangerous lady. The two guitarists exchange solos over bubbling bass and subtle harp accompaniment, the whole making this the standout track on the album, for this reviewer. “I’m Good” is perhaps the best known song of another departed Chicagoan, Bonnie Lee and Brenda does a good job on her cover.

Another familiar song marks the half-way point of the album, Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me”, again a solid version with Brenda’s vocals especially good on this one though the harp work is a little underpowered compared with Rice Miller’s style. Brenda’s “I’m Movin’ On” starts with an interesting line about there being “a million brands of whiskey, a million brands of beer” but then does not really develop, as the title is repeated many times over. Otis Rush’s “All Your Love” has some lovely harp and guitar work, but sounds as if it has been cut off, with an abrupt end after just 2.44.

Jimmy Reed’s “Baby, What Do You Want Me To Do” is up next and Jimmy’s distinctive, high-end harp work is emulated by Harmonica Hinds as the band romps through the familiar tune in great style. Having done one of her Mum’s songs it seems only right that Brenda should cover her Dad’s “I Feel So Bad” before closing the album with two more originals. “Smooth Ridin’ Buggy” is a frantic boogie which gives the album its title. It’s one of those great “double entendre” songs as Brenda describes herself as “a smooth ridin’ buggy, ready to go all the time”! “You Don’t Treat Me Right” is another piece of typical uptempo Chicago blues, played to a tune not dissimilar to the earlier “Help Me” and providing another opportunity to appreciate the two guitarists’ style – no effects, no shredding, no showboating.

This is a decent album of standard Chicago fare. The only serious criticism is Brenda’s habit of doubling up her vocal lines. At times it sounds as if there are two vocalists but no other singers are credited, so one must assume that all the vocals are by Brenda, double-tracked. It’s an unusual device and one that recurs rather too often as the album proceeds, distracting the listener’s attention from the many aspects of the disc that are well done.

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 – 4 of 6 

imageBen Levin – Still Here

Vizztone Label Group

CD: 12 Songs, 41 Minutes

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

So said Simon Cowell to Sal Valentinetti, a 2016 America’s Got Talent contestant who performed a flawless rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” Sal got the show’s Golden Buzzer, denoting a perfect score and an automatic trip to the quarterfinals. According to all the judges but especially Heidi Klum, “this kind of music” lay deeply within the young man.

Such is the case with Ben Levin, a piano blues wunderkind who has sidestepped the staccato, tweeting ethos of this current century in favor of an earlier, calmer, deeper sound. When some contemporaries pound 88 keys, you hear their flair and flash, but not the workings of their soul. With Ben’s every note, laid upon his instrument of choice like an artist lays brush upon canvas, he bares his inner core. It radiates with the purity of someone withholding naught, proffering all.

Says “Steady Rollin’” Bob Margolin in the CD liner notes: “I played in Cincinnati in the mid-1970s with the Muddy Waters band at a club called Bogart’s. Always opening those shows was Cincinnati’s legendary boogie-woogie and blues star Big Joe Duskin, playing piano and singing. I played bass on Joe’s sets and recorded an album with him on guitar in 1978. Missing those good times, I couldn’t imagine that old-school magic returning, yet here’s Ben Levin.”

Performing alongside our protagonist are his father Aron Levon on guitar, Chris Douglas on bass, and Oscar Bernal on drums.

If you crave piano blues, the first four songs will light your fuse. The third one, “That’s the Meal,” is a sing-along LOL-fest about rotten rations of – well, everything: cafeteria fare, airline peanuts (or the singular), and a chicken sandwich that doesn’t live up to its ad hype. “I don’t mean to be rude,” Ben implores. “I just want a little more food.” Turns out he’s not the only one. The next three selections are fair-to-middling; then “Crown Jewel” lives up to its name. Grab a box of tissues for a deluge of “Christmas Rain” from your eyes. It’s about Aron’s bout with COVID, requiring hospitalization and a coal-ton of worry for the family. “Her Older Brother” may be an intimidating character, but this earworm is so wriggly you’ll hope our main character will get caught on the wrong side of his words (or fists). Then comes shameless number eleven, a throw-down hoedown called “I Wonder What’s the Matter.” It’ll have you slapping your knees and stomping your feet, even after it’s over. Last but not least, “Your Essential Worker” will insist, “Every hour I put in is all for your sake.” 24/7, Levin!

Today’s tunes are vastly based not on what fans or even record execs want to hear, but what an algorithm tells them they want to hear. Hot noise this week is next week’s hot noise, remixed. However, our hero’s piano blues – even if it’s written in the here and now, with postmodern lyrics and themes – hails from a time when the word “algorithm” didn’t exist.

As Simon Cowell also told Sal Valentinetti, “You’re an old soul.” So is Ben. Through his music, he lives his truth, having lived more than one lifetime via the blues. I’m thrilled that through it all, he’s Still Here.

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 – 5 of 6 

imageAl Basile – B’s Testimony

Sweetspot Records

13 songs, 56 minutes

Al Basile is the Northeast’s poet laureate of the Blues. A founding member of Roomful of Blues and sideman/compatriot of Duke Robillard, Basile the singer, songwriter, poet and cornetist is a Blues institution. After retiring from his day gig of 25 years teaching at a private high school in Providence, RI in 2005, Basile has embarked on a prolific outpouring of endlessly creative and thoughtful projects. His most recent is in many ways his most singular and personal – B’s Testimony. After years of working with the Duke, Al has shot out on his own producing this record himself. After 2 concept song-cycle records, B’s Testimony is a collection of 13 stand alone observations and musings that feature Basile’s weathered croon, his lamenting horn and his clear poetic voice.

Al Basile, being a central figure in the Northeast, has always worked with the best regional sidemen. The endlessly groovy Mark Teixeira on drums and the funky Brad Hallen on bass create the foundation. The jovial Bruce Bears tickles the ivories and long time brothers in horn Doug James on tenor and Jeff “Doc” Chanonhouse on trumpet give life to Basile’s thoughtful arrangements. If you are not going to have your old friend Duke Robillard on guitar then his West Coast heir apparent Kid Anderson is a good replacement. Kid flew his parts in from Greaseland and they are consistently inventive and exciting. Rounding out the band is Mississippi-based singer Shy Perry duetting with her uniquely low register pipes on “One Day at a Time.”

In the press material for B’s Testimony, Basile is quoted “I like to tell the truth in every song – not necessarily one that happened to me, but one that does happen, and could happen to you.” Basile’s style of songwriting is straightforward, finding the poetic in the everyday tribulations of the heart. Songs like “Lucky Man,” “When the Girl Says Yes,” and “One Day at a Time,” bring depth of meaning and feeling to the daily grind of life rendering it artistic. Some of Basile’s work is done to simply entertain us such as “I Oughta Be Your Monkey” and “I’m Bad That Way.” Other songs create profound vignettes of the human condition such as “I Got a Right to Be Lonesome” and “Up Close and Personal Best.”

All of the testimonies of this record are wrapped into some of the most fluid and effortlessly executed Blues and Roots music imaginable. Teixeira, Hallen and Bears are a well honed machine being the Duke’s frequent merry-men. Moving from 70’s funk to low down 12 bar stomping to flashy sprints, this band cooks. Basile has a laconic Miles Davis phrasing style to his horn playing that is counterpoint to Anderson’s incendiary playing. Using organic, vintage sounds, Kid really stretches out all over this record using a variety of techniques ranging from double stops, chromatic flights of fancy and just gut bucket emotive string bending. When backed by Basile’s lengthy and varied horn arrangements, the overall effect of the record is consistent yet endlessly surprising.

Al Basile is a true Bluesman. An artist and deep thinker, a liver of life and a unique voice. He creates in many different modes through his poetry and other writing. However, his ability to sound fresh and relatable within this idiom truly makes his music a revelation. B certainly can stand and testify.

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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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6 

imageBoogie Beasts – Love Me Some

Naked Productions – 2021

12 tracks; 38:12

Blues fans have a lot to be grateful for with the Black Keys. Their soulful rhythm and blues grooves, mixed with a sprinkling of contemporary rock and roll, has allowed artists to push blues rock into the mainstream in ways that were more challenging prior to the Keys’ 2002 debut, The Big Come Up. But that distinctive sound has pressured other bands into feeling like they need to embrace it, resulting in blues acts who write and record with the Black Keys lodged in their subconscious. Boogie Beasts’ Love Me Some has some heavy Black Keys influences, but the album’s strongest moments are when they diverge from that sound.

Boogie Beasts come from Liège-Limburg-Namur, Belgium and Love Me Some is their third album. Singers Jan Jaspers and Patrick Louis tend to drench their vocals in reverb, which results in a cool garage-y effect, but often makes it difficult to connect to their vocals, in the same way it’s tough to get a read on someone wearing sunglasses. The grooves are fast, which creates energy, but sometimes makes it hard to take in the songs. These traits also too often mask the excellent harmonica work of Fabian Bennardo.

Because of that, the album’s best moment is “Run You Down,” which is Boogie Beasts at their purest. The band lays down a hypnotic groove while Bennardo’s harp howls over it. The vocals are relatively clean, making the song sound like more of a traditional blues. No one is going to mistake the track for something out of the 1960s, but that’s not what Boogie Beasts is trying to accomplish.

“Get Me Out of Here” is almost the flip side of “Run You Down,” a heavy song with a catchy slide riff that’s practically blues metal. And here, too, Bennardo’s harmonica shines, somehow finding space in the kind of song that usually doesn’t feature harmonica. “Howl” is expansive with a lovely, gentle bridge that reboots a song that begins abruptly and intensely. But as the track rebuilds after the interlude, you hear the song’s potential. All three songs pop because they provide a strong sense of Boogie Beasts’ perspective as a band. They obviously know and appreciate the blues and when they lock-in to the sounds from the original material, and put it through their own personalities, they create compelling songs.

Love Me Some has some nice moments, and Bennardo’s harmonica is a consistent treat across the album. They take a lot from the blues, but the album tilts in a rock direction. Given the power they have in Bennardo’s harmonica work, they might think about leaning more into the blues side of things, slowing things down to let the songs breathe, and returning to the kind of songwriting that probably inspired them to pick up their instruments in the first place.

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

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