Issue 15-48 December 9, 2021


Cover photo © 2021 Joseph A. Rosen

 In This Issue 

Marty Gunther has our feature interview with Joe Louis Walker. We have four Blues reviews for you this week including a book by Derek Bright about Highway 61 plus new music from Ernie Peniston, Elly Wininger and Eamonn McCormack.

 From The Editor’s Desk 


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 Featured Interview – Joe Louis Walker 

imageThe blues comes in all shades – from red-hot to cool-smooth and everything in between, and there’s no one who’s thrilled audiences more consistently across the broad spectrum of the music and or been more skillful at doing so for the past 30-plus years than Joe Louis Walker.

A 17-time nominee for Blues Music Association contemporary male artist of the year – a prize he’s taken home on three occasions, Joe’s been turning heads because of his distinctive voice and powerful attack on guitar since he was in his mid-teens, often thrilling listeners with originals worthy of the American songbook when not surprising them by putting his own unique spin on covers culled from other genres – but definitely true blue in his gifted hands.

Walker’s deeply steeped in the classical blues tradition. That comes through loud and clear in the grooves of the 30 or so albums he’s released since coming back home to the music in 1985 after pursuing an education and playing gospel for a few years.

But what sets him apart from the crowd – as Blues Blast learned in a recent interview – is a desire to remain fresh and a willingness to go in new directions through experimentation rather than restricting himself to the old one-four-five, 12-bar box established in the cotton fields and carried forward by many of his peers today.

No matter where Joe draws his inspiration – it can come from anywhere in his world travels, from country to rock, funk, jazz and more, there’s always continuity in everything he plays because of the deep blues thread that binds everything together.

“I’m a product of where I came from,” he insists – and, boy, what a place that was!

The grandson of gospel-singing grandmothers and the son of a father who hailed from Cleveland, Miss., loved Delta blues and boogie-woogie and knew several major artists at home before migrating to the West Coast, Joe was born in San Francisco on Christmas Day 1949 – the absolute perfect place and perfect time for any future musician.

He grew up in the ethnic melting pot of the city’s Fillmore District and all of the diverse sounds that filled the air just prior to the hippie invasion that changed the neighborhood to its core, led to the Summer of Love and forever changed the musical tastes around the globe.

“When I was younger, where I lived at was predominantly African-American, Japanese and Jewish,” he remembers. “My dad used to play piano players for me all the time, and for some reason, I just gravitated to ‘em.

“Boogie-woogie to me is like zydeco. If you got a pulse and a heart…if somebody puts zydeco on, you’re gonna get up eventually and start movin’ around. The same with boogie-woogie. You’re gonna start tappin’ your feet. It’s just infectious.”

Joe’s mom was a few years younger than his dad, grew up in Little Rock, Ark., and had different tastes, he says. “By the time she got to hear records and stuff, they had African-American blues stars…No. 1 being B.B. King. For her and people of her generation, B.B. King was their Michael Jackson.

”I got all that. And a little bit (different influences) trickled down from my older brothers and sisters.”

imageWalker attended Catholic school by day and Baptist church at night. You’ll be shocked to learn that his first instrument was the violin, not the six-string. He picked up the guitar for the first time at age eight or nine and he and his four siblings moved with their mom to a housing project in Fillmore after his parents initiated what was a temporary separation.

“My mom said one day: ‘Hey, your cousins are just four blocks up there at the other project,’” he remembers. “’Why don’t you go hang out with them?’

“I was (walking) about 50 yards away from their project…I just heard this music, and I’m seein’ kids out front…girls dancin’ and kids havin’ fun. They lived on the third floor…and kids were lined up in the hallway all the way up the stairs. I opened the door, and four of my cousins had a pretty good little band goin’.

“That was tailor-made for me!”

Living in a crime- and gang-infested neighborhood only a few strides from where the Grateful Dead and a growing coterie of anti-establishment musicians would put down roots, Joe quickly developed a preoccupation with the guitar, which kept him off the teeming streets and safe from the troubles outside.

He was influenced early by T-Bone Walker and B.B. as well as keyboard stars Amos Milburn, Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson, a list that expanded with time to include soul giants Otis Redding, James Brown, Wilson Pickett and Bobby Womack, too. And he attended junior high school a half-block away from the legendary Fillmore Auditorium, where student bands rehearsed during the day before giving way to major talent at night.

Built in 1912 as a ballroom and then, for decades, a roller rink, it evolved into a major stop for touring black artists after its acquisition by Charles Sullivan, one of the most successful African-American businessmen of his generation. It was through his generosity that Walker frequently got to watch the superstars in action from the wings.

“We used to have our battle of the bands there,” Joe says. “I saw James Brown there when he got ‘A Brand New Bag.’ I saw the real Temptations there with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks. I saw Little Richard there with Jimi Hendrix on guitar in 1964. I took my grandmother when Little Richard got religion.”

Then the vibe started to change.

“Around ’65, you had a lot of longhaired kids who wanted to get away from ‘uptight’ things goin’ on in other parts of the country,” Joe says.

Late that year, promoter Bill Graham started booking shows there, and he took over ownership of the venue following Sullivan’s murder the following summer, still allowing Joe to watch the headliners, but quickly establishing the Fillmore as one of the important showrooms in the world by cashing in on the burgeoning hippie movement and the music it produced.

“He always put blues on the shows,” Joe remembers, “but nine out of ten times, the headliner would always be young people…the (Jefferson) Airplane, the Dead or someone like that.”

In a heartbeat, the district changed overnight.

“I can’t call it ‘hippie gentrification,’” Walker insists. “Instead of stayin’ home in Minnesota or Iowa or wherever and sayin’ ‘I don’t wanna do what my mom and dad did…I wanna make my own way in life’ or ‘I don’t believe in the Vietnam War’ or ‘I believe in a woman’s right to choose’ or ‘I believe a person can fall in love with who they want to regardless of who they are,’ they were sayin’ ‘but I can’t do that here! A lot of young people are movin’ to the Bay Area. I wanna be there, too!’

image“All they did,” he chuckles, “was move to my neighborhood.”

Joe was already a star ascendant by the time they arrived, having started playing out for the first time at age 14 and drawing immediate attention. Far more than a novelty even at that young age, he was already sharing the stage with a rapidly expanding list of top names, including Muddy, Willie Dixon, The Soul Stirrers, Buddy Miles, Otis Rush, Hendrix, Charlie Musselwhite, John Mayall and Thelonious Monk.

And by the time he was 16, he was already out of the house and living on his own, working in the house band at Eli’s Mile High Club in Oakland, playing behind its owner, Troyce Key and backing Sly Stewart, Percy Mayfield, Lowell Fulson, Katy Webster and both John Lee and Earl Hooker, too. For a brief while, he also joined the roster of Blue Cheer, the proto-metal band whose tune, “Summertime Blues,” was a hippie anthem, and The Oxford Circle, the group that sprang from its ashes.

In 1968, Walker formed an instant friendship with Mike Bloomfield, the founding member of both Butterfield Blues Band and Electric Flag, a protégé of Muddy’s and one of the most influential guitarists of his generation. They roomed together in the Bay Area and in greater Chicago for the next 13 years, during which, Joe says, he instilled in him the idea that the blues is far more than a series of notes that, in fact, it’s the expression of the human condition.

Their relationship came to a tragic, sudden halt on Feb. 15, 1981, when Mike was found dead behind the wheel of his locked car in San Francisco. The cause of his passing remains a mystery today. Even though an empty vial of Valium was found on the seat beside him, an autopsy no trace of drugs in his system and no sign of foul play.

For Joe, the immense loss of his closest friend served as a major catalyst for change. Soon after, he turned his back on the blues and enrolled in San Francisco State University, where he earned a degree in English and music. While he was still studying, he also became a member of The Spiritual Corinthians Gospel Quartet, a Bay Area treasure.

The Corinthians experience came with many blessings. In addition to touring in what basically was a family – not a “band” — setting, Walker received valuable lessons about singing in harmony and lead as well as learning how to arrange music. He returned to the blues in 1985 after appearing with the group at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and feeling the need to make a change.

Back in the Bay Area, he formed his band, the Bosstalkers, and was signed to HighTone Records, joining a roster that included Robert Cray. The title tune from his debut CD, Cold as the Night, captured a W.C. Handy Award for song of the year as well as nominations for contemporary album and male artist honors, too, beginning a career that resulted in 2013 induction into the Blues Hall of Fame and stops at several of the top labels in the industry, including Verve/Gitanes, Stony Plain, Provogue, Evidence, JSP, Alligator and now Cleopatra imprint.

Since issuing JLW on Alligator in ’94, Walker’s regularly welcomed other musical luminaries to share the spotlight on his discs both as performers and in the control room, including Steve Cropper, who supervised Blues of the Month Club, and Duke Robillard, who produced Between a Rock and the Blues. Tom Hambridge produced both of Walker’s discs with the biggest blues-rock bite, Hellfire and Hornet’s Nest, and Joe was a Grammy finalist a few years ago for Everybody Wants a Piece, too.

imageEvery time he goes into the studio, he says, it’s usually with something else in mind, noting: “I’m not gonna make every record the same,” says Joe. “I was goin’ for a specific thing with Hellfire, and I think we captured it – which was just turn the guitar loose on some pretty good material to showcase it.

“The next record (Hornet’s Nest) was a little bit in the same vein. But I don’t want to make eight records in a row where it’s so-called ‘shredding’ all the time. That’s not who I am. I have no qualms about anyone who makes their living like that. But I like to have a little more nuance and subtlety to what I do.”

He understands why so many other artists today choose that route, and insists he’d never denigrate anybody for the success they enjoy doing so. “It’s definitely a generational thing,” he says, adding: “I see a lotta people who play the heck out of a guitar – I mean up and down and down and up – but the only thing that’s missing…what I don’t hear…is a lot of memorable songs.

“What I got from the originators…I think it was Willie Dixon who told me: ‘You know what Joe? Nobody goes home hummin’ a guitar solo,’” Walker recalls. “’They go home hummin’ the melody.’” That said, he insists, there were definitely exceptions in the past, most notably Buddy Holly and Hendrix. But I really get it.”

For older listeners, though, things used to be different, he notes. “When you listen to all Chuck Berry, every record that he did, there may be a guitar solo, but it’s in, to the point and out. B.B. King…into the point and out!”

It’s a transition that began in the ‘60s, Joe says, when bands began evolving from what he describes as a “we thing” to a “me thing” and the guitar became so prominent that it became “a sort of phallic symbol,” subjugating everything else in music into the background.

“I grew up in an era where the guitar was subordinate to the song,” Walker remembers. “I used to ask Willie why there was no guitar solo in a lot of Muddy Waters’ stuff. And he says: ‘It’s because the harmonica was the main instrument that we focused on. If there was a guitar solo, it’d be Muddy playin’ a slide or somethin’ like that.’”

The structure of Muddy’s band was different than the Yardbirds who had a triumvirate of guitar gods — Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page – in the lineup. His was an organization directed by a serious bandleader who featured Little Walter, James Cotton, Junior Wells and Mojo Buford and other harp players.

Back then, Joe says, the blues world was far more welcoming.

“When all the English guys came over,” he adds, “Muddy accepted the Rolling Stones as his ‘boys.’ Wolf accepted Bill Wyman, and they were best of friends. Snooky Pryor schooled Elvin Bishop. Junior Wells took Butterfield up…on and on and on. None of those guys said: ‘This is just black American music and y’all can’t play that.’ Not one of ‘em.

“A lot of the older guys weren’t very happy about guys takin’ their solos note-for-note, puttin’ ‘em on their songs and then gettin’ top-dollar billing — with them (the originators) way down on the bill. But the fact of the matter is that those songs and those riffs that they invented are still being sung and played right now.

“In the music industry, if one thing becomes popular, they want a million things like that. The latest iteration is that you have one or two guys that really shred the blues. Top names! But myself, I’m lookin’: ‘Where’s the songs at?’

“I don’t know if the songs they’re writing today will stand the test of time. It used to be one solo and out. But now, because everybody is so guitar-centric, things are upside down. You can do one verse – ‘I lost my baby…’ – 20 verses of guitar solo and last vocal verse – ‘I found my baby.’

“It’s a hit! Why? Not because ‘I lost my baby…I found my baby,’ but because he shredded every note on the guitar neck. And that’s the last thing that I want to do. I wanna put somethin’ away for wa-a-ay later.

“But whatever they’re doin’ to make a lot of money…it’s great.”

imageScreaming lyrics and playing your instrument as loud as you can doesn’t make a song fresh or original, he adds. It’s the nuances you put into it that bring that about. Nor does playing old-school songs from the masters note-for-note.

“If you can sell a million records by playing exactly like someone else,” Walker says, “more power to ya! Me, I couldn’t do it. To me, it’s like wearin’ another man’s shoes. “Get some shoes with your name on ‘em. You’ll have to go to work to buy yourself some. There’s some that’ll fit you!”

That said, Walker is a modernist with a deep respect for his forebears, something that he regularly displays in live performance. “I’ll go out on tour one time and do the music of Muddy, Wolf and somebody else, the next tour…Freddie, Albert and B.B., the three Kings. The next tour, I’m doin’ Jeff Beck and all the English blues guys.”

But he always delivers a heaping helping of Joe Louis Walker music, too, no matter the focus of his tribute. He credits James Cotton for pointing him in that direction after overhearing him in conversation with another major harmonica player and telling him: “Man, I heard you play Little Walter, Big Walter, In-between Walter. I heard you play me. I heard you play all night, but I never heard you play you!”

“That’s my thing,” Joe insists. You can go out and do the music of Muddy and Wolf, the three Kings, Jeff Beck and them. But at some point, you have to come out with your own music.”

While Joe can still blaze up and down the fretboard with the best of ‘em, his latest albums on Cleopatra have been far more diverse, incorporating tunes from others genres, while still maintaining a firm grasp on the essence of what the founders created.

His 2020 release, Blues Comin’ On, was a masterwork that’s flown under the radar because of the coronavirus crisis. An all-star laden set that included Eric Gales, Jorma Kaukonen, Keb’ Mo’, Dion, Mitch Ryder, John Sebastian and others, it kicked off with “Feed the Poor,” a powerful blues co-written with Gabe Jagger, and three other powerful originals and interesting covers that included Charlie Rich’s country classic, “Lonely Weekends.” And reinventions of ‘60s chart topper Arthur Lee’s “7 & 7 Is” and Dion’s “Blues Comin’ On” were rerecorded with both originators on guitar.

Joe’s latest CD, the recently released Eclectic Electric, dovetails perfectly with its predecessor, using a similar formula and helping hands from folks who created the covers.

“Some of the sessions were done a little bit before Blues Comin’ On,” Walker says, and the roster features contributions by Jimmy Vivino, Doyle Bramhall II, Waddy Wachtel, gospel star-turned-R&B powerhouse Bette Smith, Murali Coryell and the B.B. King Blues Band, too.

The original “Uptown Girl Blues” opens and features Vivino and harmony vocals before Los Lobos sax master Steve Berlin helps put a funky spin on “Wine,” a song penned by Sonny West, the ‘50s country legend who wrote some of Holly’s biggest hits. Two more original treasures follow before Joe completely reinvents the Eagles’, “Hotel California” and Don Henley’s “All She Wants to Do Is Dance.”

“I was asked to do one iconic song,” Joe says, “so we chose that one. I didn’t want to do the guitar or anything. Joe Walsh did it — and it sounded great. What I wanted to do was tell the story” — something that might have gone over the head of casual listeners for decades but rings true for any touring musician.

“If you’re a musician in California, you’re tryin’ to check into a hotel at 2 a.m. after a gig,” he notes, “and nobody’s at the desk. But there’s a guy in the corner who says: ‘Hey, what’s up?!? You can check in, but you can’t check out.’ For us musicians, it’s real. People think it’s not.

“Murali played a lot of lead guitar on it, and I played foil to his lead. Then I sent it to Waddy. He liked it and put his slide on it, which made me feel good because he was one of the co-writers.”

And Wachtel, who penned “Werewolves in London” with Warren Zevon, also features prominently in JLW’s retelling of the tune. Other interesting re-dos include Muddy’s “Two Trains Running,” Keith Richards’ “Make No Mistake,” and “Lady in Red,” a tune first recorded by the band Chain Reaction in 1971 that features Bette.

The real treasure in the set, however, is the Walker original, “Gone and Alone,” a number that was truly a labor of love. Featuring sweeping horn lines directed by cornetist Picasso Knuckleboogie and rhythm partially recorded by African musicians when he was touring France, it’s a heartwarming number that Joe wrote with his own roots in mind.

“That’s my ‘family reunion’ song,” he says. “It tells my family story…my mother, my father, my sisters, my brother…the family keep you strong. I wanted to write something that they could play when we together that would pay respect to the elders and, at the same time, mention everybody else…brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews…everybody.”

It definitely hit the right chord. Several family members heard it, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. You might tear up a little, too, if Joe plays it for you live during his current tour. He hit the road again in mid-November after a short, six-stop run with George Thorogood, and he’s definitely planning to ramp up the frequency of his shows in the year ahead.

Check out Joe’s music and where he’ll be playing next by visiting his website: You’ll be glad you did!

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. Now based out of Charlotte, N.C., his first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

For other interviews on our website CLICK HERE

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 4

imageErnie Peniston – These Blues

AJ Records – 2021

8 tracks; 33 minute

Ernie Peniston fronted the Chicago Rhythm & Blues Kings for four years and in Minneapolis played with drummer Morris Day whose subsequent band The Time went on to record with Prince on Purple Rain and Graffiti Bridge. Ernie is now back in his native Iowa and performs locally. This CD features his smooth vocals on a set of generally upbeat and funky/soul material. Ernie is backed by Rick Penhallegon on drums, Darren Butler on bass, David Sulzberger on keys and either Craig Stubbins or Ed Finn on guitar; Delene McConnaha adds backing vocals while Ernie sings lead throughout and produced the album himself, as well as writing six of the eight songs.

The album opener deals explicitly with racism as Ernie asks “What Did I Do?” to make the other person look oddly at him though now an older and wiser man, Ernie realizes that he does not have to take those attitudes, it is for others to learn to accept the color of his skin. Johnny Copeland’s “Love Utopia” is next up with some rocking piano and good guitar accents on what is perhaps the most uptempo outing of the set and is remarkably hard to sit still to! “I Want You” has some slinky rhythms that suit the gently lascivious lyrics: “Don’t want to fall in love, just want to have some fun; waste no time, baby, get it done”. The impressive title cut explains the life of the bluesman pretty convincingly – little money, lots of travel away from loved ones – but the blues keeps calling him to another gig. The song is beautifully played to a gentle tune with some striking guitar work from Ed Finn.

Ernie realizes that keeping “Old Letters” may be an error, especially when his lady finds them. It’s a slower tune with a definite blues feel, courtesy of the guitar supported by the organ work. The uptempo “You Can’t Do That No More” addresses the ups and downs of relationships, moving from romantic harmony to complete breakdown within the space of a week! More solid guitar work and a deserved feature for keyboards man David. “Love’s Got A Hold On Me” bounces along with bright guitar fills before the final track, “Meat On The Bone”, credited to ‘Manuel Crutcher’ but actually it’s a song by Bettye Crutcher and Bobby Manuel that first appeared on a 1970’s Stax release by Little Sonny. The track makes a good, upbeat finale as it pays tribute to fuller-figured ladies.

This is a solid album of soulful blues, well played and always entertaining, albeit a little short in length by modern CD standards.

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.

For other reviews on our website CLICK HERE


 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 4 

imageDerek Bright – Highway 61: Crossroads On The Blues Highway

The Choir Press

176 pages Softcover edition

There have been many books written about blues music, some focusing on musicians, others on the sociological aspects and history of black Americans as related to the roots of the music. Other works explored the clubs and theaters that supported the musicians. Recent editions raise questions as to where the music truly originated, or who does it really belong to.

In the updated version of his book first released in 2014, author Derek Bright attempts to merge people, places, and history in a narrative based on his three visits to the U.S., trips that form a blues pilgrimage that provided the resident of the United Kingdom with the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the music. His first visit in 2007 found him visiting the Mississippi Delta region with his friend, Phil Sugden. In 2013, along with his son, he visited Chicago and Memphis.

The key elements of his narrative were gathered during his 2012 adventure, which found him traveling from Chicago to New Orleans, with plenty of stops along the way. As one might glean from the title, his journey follows the famed Highway 61, which stretches from Wyoming to the Gulf of Mexico. An integral part of the crossroads myth where Robert Johnson “sold” his soul to the Devil, the highway was also a main thoroughfare for blacks who were part of the great migration from a life of poverty in the Southern states to the promise of a better life in the Northern big cities.

Accompanying Bright on his journey was his good friend, Richard Brown, who documented their travels with his photographs. Brown’s b&w photos are distributed throughout the book, accenting various points of Bright’s narrative. His color photos are showcased in a 22 page section filled with vivid images like the B.B. tribute mural in Leland, MS, or the ‘Great Migration’ mural by Marcus Akiniana on Chicago’s South Side.

To his credit, the author doesn’t limit himself to only musical subjects. He makes frequent references to the steady flow of blacks from the states where Jim Crow was the law of the land to the industrialized North, where cotton fields gave way to meatpacking plants and steel mills offering better pay, but still left the transplanted souls near the bottom of the economic ladder. In the opening chapter on Chicago, Bright offers a telling statistic. “In the first sixty years of the twentieth century Chicago’s black population increased from 30,150 to 812,637, an increase from just under 2 per cent to nearly a quarter of the city’s total population.”

The another chapter finds Bright visiting St. Louis, making another attempt to find the spirit of Chuck Berry and his music in the musician’s hometown, getting their first glimpses of the mighty Mississippi river on the way as Highway 61 veers close to the banks, only to move away from the river a little further along. They take in several blues clubs, then head across the river to East St. Louis to the site where once stood the Cosmopolitan Club at the corner of Seventh and Bond, another vital crossroads where Berry and his piano player, Johnnie Johnson, once spawned the music soon to be known as rock ‘n’ roll.

The author does not shy away from commenting the issues of racism and segregation. Some of his remarks are telling, given that he has an “outsider” viewpoint. He admits to being overwhelmed by the courage of black, and white, individuals who endured humiliation and violence in the pursuit of equal rights for all, as vividly portrayed during his visit at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. At the remains of the Bryant Grocery store in Money, MS, Bright sheds a few tears at the site where Emmett Till allegedly flirted with the white woman running the store, leading to his brutal murder, followed by a national outcry for justice.

Later, he and Brown make their first stop in Jackson, MS, at the museum dedicated to the memory of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, Field Secretary of the Mississippi chapter of the NAACP, in his former home where he was murdered in 1963, a crime that went unpunished for thirty years. Standing there, Bright comments that he saw it as testimony to a man denied the opportunity to attend the college of his choice due to the color of his skin, and now has a college, an airport, and a US naval vessel named in his honor.

The trips also included visits to a variety of grave sites, including one near Greenwood, MS, one of several purported to hold the remains of Robert Johnson. The duo were not immune to lure of regular tourist attractions like the Sun Records Studio, or Po’ Monkey’s, one of the last remaining Delta juke joints, situated near Merigold, MS. Also nearby was the Dockery plantation, where Charley Patton once resided, as did Tommy Johnson, “a place where ‘people lived, worked, and took leisure in a single location.”

The travelers reach Helena, Arkansas, in time for the King Biscuit Blues Festival, enjoying sets by Vasti Jackson, guitarist Roy Rogers, Big George Brock, and James Cotton. But Bright recalls his first visit in 2007, commenting, “I remember how overwhelmed I’d been by the feeling of decay, as though the town had shuttered up a couple of decades prior to my arrival.” In the section on their stay in Clarksdale, MS, where Highway 61 intersects Highway 49, the legendary crossroads, the author follows the challenge laid out by researcher Francoise Hamlin, to consider the legacy of blues music in conjunction with the history of the communities and the people that fostered it, an approach he utilizes throughout the book.

After three weeks on the road, Bright and Brown reach their final destination, with one evening to sample the many musical and culinary delights that New Orleans has to offer. They are able to view the building on Rampart Street that housed J & M Records, along with the studio that owner Cosimo Mataassa used to record many of the hit records that define the New Orleans musical legacy. Now a dry cleaners, it is another reminder of the often sorry state of preservation of key historical sites in the blues history continuum.

Bright’s engaging style keeps the story flowing, deftly weaving the various elements into a story-line that goes beyond a mere travel guide. By the end, most readers will undoubtedly be forming plans for their own blues pilgrimage, and judging by this book, it could very well be a trip for the ages!

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!

For other reviews on our website CLICK HERE


 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 4 

imageElly Wininger – The Blues Never End

Earwig Music – 2021

13 tracks; 50.47 minutes

Elly Wininger started out in New York’s Greenwich Village folk and blues scene in the 70’s, inspired by traditional artists like Lead Belly, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Mississippi John Hurt. She started on stage alongside the likes of Maria Muldaur and David Bromberg and has released four previous CDs. Her latest on Earwig comprises four original compositions and nine covers. Elly accompanies herself on acoustic and slide guitars and is assisted (in varying combinations) by Lou Pappas on acoustic bass, Paul Duffy on piano, Eric Parker on drums and percussion, Josh Roy Brown on lap steel, Rob Stein on pedal steel, Jimmy Eppard on bass, Ed Morris on accordion, Mike Merenda on banjo and Sam Friedman on harmonica; David Winograd (tuba), Barry Bryson (trumpet), Dale DeMarco (clarinet) and Ken Foy (trombone) appear on one track.

Elly sings in a clear, pleasant voice and picks her guitar beautifully, as can immediately be heard on the traditional “Let That Liar Alone”, her version with just guitar, bass and handclaps inspired by Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s, but aimed at recent political times in the States. Geeshie Wiley’s “Skinny Legs Blues” is guitar and piano was written in 1930, Elly deliberately omitting the verse in which she slits the guy’s throat! A fine solo take on Skip James’ “Special Rider Blues” sits amongst a run of four originals: the first is a slow blues with lap steel and full rhythm section, Elly in search of the “Right Kind Of Trouble”; we then head South to discover “Alabama Blues”, a sorry tale of unplanned pregnancy hitting up against abortion rules, a very topical subject at present, Elly sounding suitably angry about the situation; “The Blues Never Ends” deliberately references a host of blues song titles during a relaxed five minutes; in contrast “(I Wanna Be Like) Rosie” is an uptempo romp that pays tribute to accordion player Rosie Lydet.

Tony Joe White’s oft-covered “As The Crow Flies” is stripped back to its rural roots in a sedate version with slide, banjo and percussion. The remaining tracks are all songs from the greats of traditional blues/country blues. Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Black Snake Moan” is given a Dixieland feel by the addition of the four wind instruments. Elly plays the next three solo: Blind Willie Johnson’s “God Moves On The Water” (a song that references the sinking of the Titanic in 1912) is effectively played on the slide guitar; Elly states that she thinks that Lonnie Johnson’s “Range In My Kitchen” should be sung by a woman, so she does so! A slowed-down version of Lead Belly’s “Leavin’ Blues” finds her back on slide before a band performance of another Lead Belly song, “Old Riley”, closes the album with a jaunty country blues.

Fans of traditional acoustic blues will find a lot to enjoy on this album.

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 4 

imageEamonn McCormack – Storyteller

BEM Records

CD: 11 Songs, 51 Minutes

Styles: Guitar Monster Blues, Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, All Original Songs

At heart, every blues artist is a Storyteller. Some snarl sentences on shredder guitar. Others expound on electric keyboards, dole out descriptions on drums, and pontificate on piano. Dublin bluesman Eamonn McCormack proves himself as eloquent as Cormack McCarthy, albeit in musical fashion. On eleven original numbers, he waxes poetic on topics ranging from “The Great Famine” to the lure of “Gypsy Women” to the reasons why he’s “South Dakota Bound.” Eamonn is Ireland’s answer to Walter Trout. He possesses a similar pounding drive, in-your-face style and relentless intensity, taking no prisoners. Surging instrumentation often overpowers his vocals: a shame on pensive tracks like “Help Me Understand.” Other songs benefit from this imbalance. The album’s overall vibe is loud, proud, and rock-endowed. What more need be said?

Born in Ireland’s capital city, Eamonn was raised on a north-side suburb. He started out on the acoustic guitar at six years old, prompted by the acoustic performance of his school classmate Gerry Leonard (David Bowie, Susanne Vega). His earliest influences included Slade, Cat Stevens, Neil Young and Rory Gallagher. By twelve he was singing along with his guitar and performing at folk masses. At sixteen, Eamonn performed live on a national Irish radio show.

The last decade saw a younger Eamonn play, tour and record with many of his earliest guitar influences such as Rory Gallagher, Johnny Winter, Jan Akkerman (ex. Focus), Pat Travers, Walter Trout (!), Brian “Robbo” Robertson (Thin Lizzy, Motöread) and Nils Lofgren. Another highlight was Eamonn and his band’s unforgettable performance at the Parkpop festival in Holland to an audience of around a half a million people, sharing the bill with Robert Plant and more. Eamonn also got to play the prestigious Rockpalast in Germany, sharing the bill with Lynyrd Skynyrd & The Band, that was televised and broadcast across Europe.

Joining Eamonn (vocals, guitars and harmonica) are Edgar Karg on bass guitar and Max Jung-Poppe on drums and organ. Arne Wiegand guest-stars on piano and organ.

The two best fast songs here are “Tie One On” and “Cowboy Blues.” The former is a glorious, gritty, gleeful monologue about yearning for “the hair of the dog” after a long night of partying: “I need to TIE. ONE. ON!” The latter is the most hard-driving and danceable, whether at the bar or in your car. Tap a drum rhythm on the floor or the steering wheel. “I’m just a cowboy lost in the blues,” Eamonn says, though his home country is as far from the American West as possible. The best slow song is “In a Dream,” featuring a melodic guitar intro and melancholy musings.

If you’re in the mood for a guitar blast, pick up this Storyteller’s album fast!

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.

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