Issue 15-9 March 4, 2021


Cover photo © 2021 Joseph A. Rosen

 In This Issue 

Marty Gunther has our feature interview with Norwegian Bluesman J.T. Lauritsen. We have six blues reviews for you this week including new music from Selwyn Birchwood, Curtis Salgado, Joyann Parker, The Rusty Wright Band, Tiny Legs Tim and The Flaming Mudcats.

 From The Editor’s Desk 

imageHey Blues Fans,

The 2021 Blues Blast Music Awards are coming! We are working on the details and will be ready for submissions by the end of March.

Eligible recordings for the 14th Annual Blues Blast Awards are albums released from June 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021. Complete details on how to submit your music to the Blues Blast Music Awards nominators coming soon!

For the latest information on the Blues Blast Music Awards visit 

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser


 Featured Interview – J.T. Lauritsen 

imageEven on the darkest, coldest winter nights in America, folks have blues to keep them warm. And the same is true in far-off Norway, where the sun sets in the fall in some regions and doesn’t rise again until spring and where J.T. Lauritsen consistently throws logs on the musical fire to chase the chill away.

A century after its birth, the blues truly has become a universal language – something that’s evident by an ever-increasing number of foreign artists whose roots are firmly planted in the cotton fields, Memphis and Chicago and who cross oceans in an attempt to establish themselves in the land where the music was born.

Jan Tore Lauritsen is one of those special talents, frequently appearing at the Big Blues Bender, Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise and other major venues across the U.S. as well as the Notodden Blues Festival and other major events across Europe – something he’s been doing since forming his group. The Buckshot Hunters, 30 years ago.

Although he’s known far and wide today for delivering an interesting mix of contemporary blues, soul and more on accordion and harmonica – a mix he bills as “Norwegian blue-eyed soul,” he started out as a child as an organist, eventually switching instruments after lugging a Hammond B3 organ and all its gear to gigs for years.

But J.T.’s no stranger to hard work – as Blues Blast learned in a recent Skype interview on a frigid weekday afternoon. He was seated at his computer in his office with the sun reflecting off the snow that covered the ground outside the windows behind him. He’d just returned home after a hard day working on the railroad – a job that’s kept a roof over his head and food on the table during the epidemic – and one that he’s maintained for 37 years despite his success in the music world.

“I started out delivering mail,” he says, “then went to school to be a Wagenmeister (German for ‘wagon technician’), watching over the train before it was leaving,” he says. He became skilled in all aspects of maintaining cars and engines, and, for about a decade, he was in charge of a shop that dealt exclusively keeping wheel sets humming on the rails.

At age 53, he insists: “I’m not getting any younger. They recently shifted me over to working security and to teaching workshops on brake systems for different kinds of locomotives and wagens (cars). It’s been a very strange year – especially when you consider that, for the last ten years, music has taken up all of my time…almost.”

A native of Lillestrøm – a municipality of 86,000 residents about 14 miles east of Oslo in the southeast corner of the nation, Lauritsen became infatuated with music at age six, when his father gave him a Magnus organ. Manufactured by a company based in Poland, it’s been a popular teaching tool for beginners across Europe since the ‘50s. Its features include three octaves of piano keys accompanied by a side panel of buttons that provide vocal chording in a manner similar to a harmonica with a fan blowing wind across reeds.

“If you have a talent, you go to a piano or an organ,” Lauritsen says.

A quick learner, he graduated to a full-size Hammond– and lessons – pretty quickly. “I didn’t do my homework, but I was lucky because one of my teachers liked my improvisation. By the time I was eight or nine, I’d sit and jam with him.

“All those years, my dad had a huge collection of music…all kinds…country music, blues, Cliff Richard, Elvis. I still have some of his old vinyl records from ’55 or ’56. But then I saw all these great artists playing on TV, and it really hit me – especially a Charles Brown show because he wasn’t very well known in Norway at that time.”

The keyboard player in Johnny Moore & the Three Blazers and a songwriter who penned both the classic “Driftin’ Blues” and “Merry Christmas Baby,” Brown was a major influence on young Ray Charles after establishing himself as a major star following World War II, but he worked for decades as a janitor in a building for senior citizens after his soft-toned, classically influenced style went out of favor. By the time J.T. discovered him, he’d returned to glory in the ‘80s, when he toured frequently with Bonnie Raitt.

“Ray Charles was one of my early favorites,” Lauritsen says. “He did so many different things, but everything he did was pure magic. He really touched me with his vocals and how he played. Every time I saw him, it was magic! And B.B. King has always been a favorite, too.”

His first gigs came at age 14 and proved so successful that he’s played before live audiences ever since, initially performing on a Hammond C3 that he picked up for $500. “I was dragging that around alone to gigs in my trailer,” he says, “and it was in very good condition” – something that improved thanks to the tinkering of a good friend, Paul Wagnberg, a Swedish B3 player who recorded on J.T.’s early albums and who’s now a doctor.

imageLauritsen acquired the organ of his dreams by chance after a trip to Nashville. He popped into a music store in Printer’s Alley one day in search of a B3. The guy proprietor it didn’t have one on premises, but gave him the card of a man living north of the city — the son of a recently deceased MD who was trying to sell the one his dad formerly played.

“When I came home to Norway, I sent him an email,” Lauritsen remembers. “The B3 had been in the living room for over 30 years – complete with the pedals, seat and even the paper and the oil you drip on the inside. It was dark mahogany, too – unusual because most B3s are more like blond. I paid $5,000 for it, another $1,200 to ship it to Norway and $1,000 or so for parts.”

It was a beautiful instrument, and brought J.T. years of enjoyment. But after gigging with it for year years, he eventually grew weary of transporting the 400-plus pound keyboard, its Leslie speaker and other equipment on and off stage.

“It was a good investment,” he says. “I eventually decided to sell it to take care of my wife and my house. I got $15,000 for it. I knew that if I wanted to buy another one, they’d still be one available somewhere. But sometimes, money isn’t!”

By the time Lauritsen played the Notodden Blues Festival in 1987, he was ready to go in another direction. “Some dude had an accordion, and I borrowed it from him for a song,” he says, “and I had so-o-o much fun with it.

“The next year, the same guy was there, and I asked him if it was possible to borrow it for a whole night. He said: ‘Buy me a drink, and it’s okay!’ I bought him two. I came to realize that it was so much easier to play that I went out and bought one for myself.

“But I’m not an accordion player,” he insists. “I don’t play with the left hand (the black buttons that provide the bottom), only the right because I have a bass player in my band. I can do it now, but not like the real maestros. In my head, I’m still playing a Hammond B3.”

In simple terms, his attack differs greatly from the accordion masters who dominate the zydeco and Cajun world. Many artists in that field play piano or chromatic accordions, which enable them to play counterpoint on the left hand buttons while the right delivers the lead. J.T. uses a diatonic accordion, which – like the B3 – works more like a harmonica.

“I enjoy it more and more with each passing year,” he says, “and I just add it when it’s comfortable for me to play. You registrate the accordion the same way you do an organ to play a song. (select the proper stops, for more on organ Registration click HERE) For me, my philosophy is to make good-time music and feel good when it’s done.”

That comes across through deep, bluesy runs more common to Memphis and Chicago blues and soul rather than the repetitive drone that sometimes turns off some listeners to zydeco.

The accordion has been his trademark since 1989, but was initially a major challenge because he found himself struggling to support guitar players who were far more comfortable delivering their leads when he was on B3. After a decade, he says, he is losing faith in the instrument – something that changed through the encouragement from Chubby Carrier, C.J. Chenier and Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone after befriending them at mutual festival appearances and J.T.’s trips to the U.S.

Despite only being in his early 50s, Lauritsen is now an elder statesman in the Norwegian blues community, which has been making a major impact internationally in recent years despite the fact that the music had been far more popular in the U.K., France and Netherlands before Norse fans started to embrace it in the ‘70s.

imageSeveral major American artists planted the seeds in Scandinavia during tours, and there are other Norwegians who’ve come before him – most notably guitarist Knut Reiersrud, but the person who made the biggest impact in the country is someone you’re probably unaware of: David “Rock Bottom” York, an often overlooked powerhouse harmonica player and songwriter who was born in Brooksville, Ind., in 1948.

The brother-in-law of acoustic guitarist Roy Book Binder and late-life caretaker for Diamond Teeth Mary McClain, Bessie Smith’s half-sister, Rock was based out of Bradenton, Fla., for decades and a fixture on the club circuit across the Southeast. He died in his sleep at age 53 in 2001, but not before laying the groundwork for the blues across Scandinavia, where he toured frequently for the final two decades of his life.

He and his band, The Silver Kings and – later — The Cutaways, became a notorious, overnight sensation after playing their tune, “My Balls Are Blue from Loving You” on a national TV show, dedicating it to Nancy Reagan and describing her as their favorite groupie. It caused such a furor that the Norwegian ambassador to the U.S. eventually issued a formal apology for the transgression.

But from then on, Rock was a superstar in a foreign land. . Several other of his originals have been in regular rotation on the airwaves ever since thanks to covers by local bands. An enigmatic man who hired and fired band members on a whim. During one tour, he abandoned one bandmate in a desolate region close to the Arctic Circle only to circle around, pick him up and ferry him to an airport the next day.

Gruff but possessing a huge heart, he groomed dozens of young musicians and relentlessly pursued gigs for friends near and far. One of his protégés was Vidar Busk, a Norwegian guitarist who came to the U.S. to join his band at age 15. Rock served as his surrogate father for five years before Busk returned home in 1990 and began establishing himself as a star in his own right.

“The first time I saw Rock was at Notodden in ’88,” J.T. remembers fondly. “He brought Diamond Teeth Mary on the tour. I was 19 years old at the time, they were playing this cruise on a small lake. He saw me with an accordion on my back – not to play with anyone, but because I had it on loan for the whole day.

“He grabbed my shoulder and said: ‘Can you play on that?’ I said: ‘Well, I love playin’ on it. If you want me to play with you, I’d love that, too.’ He gave me a smile and said: ‘C’mon, brother!’

“We played for two hours that day. I was very disciplined, and played only when he gave me the shot. He’d really liked it. He hadn’t expected for me to be playing accordion that way. From then on, we started exchanging emails, and I’d play with him whenever he’d come on tour.

“In 2000, both our bands were at a festival on the west coast, and he asked me if I’d like to come to Florida. We started making plans to tour together the following year, and he gave me a list of all of the equipment he had that I could play when we did.”

Sadly, Rock’s death came a few months before it was scheduled to take place.

Another event that changed the music scene in Norway was the arrival of the original Blues Brothers in Scandinavia in the early ‘90s, fostering huge interest in blues-infused R&B, Lauritsen says. “All across Europe, things changed. One (copycat) band after another started up. I even did it myself for a while, wearing all black with a band called Black & Blues – a 10-piece band with three vocalists and a horn section.”

imageLauritsen has been fronting his own group — initially called Buckshot Blues Band – since 1991, and Busk was a member of the early lineup, J.T. says, noting: “When Vidar came home, everybody wanted to play with him. But I had Paul — this great B3 player — with me and one of Vidar’s friends was also on drums. We went from jams to occasional gigs in town to getting good crowds.”

They released their debut CD, Buckshot Hunters, in 1995 and changed their name to mirror the title shortly thereafter. The international tours that came as a result helped pay for their next release, My Kind of Blues, in 1999 and Make a Better World in 2001, which featured a young Kid Andersen on six-string just prior to emigrating to the U.S. Norwegian Blues News tabbed the disc as its album of the year.

“Kid was just 17 years old,” remembers Lauritsen who’s 12 years his senior. “He’d been playing in all the house bands at the local blues clubs for a while, and we brought him aboard to tour and gig with us. He was also on our album Perfect Moves in 2004.”

That disc took J.T. and his group in a new musical direction. Primarily an original set penned by Lauritsen and guitarist Arnfinn Tørrisen, who’s remained at Lauritsen’s side since 1994, it encompassed soul and blues-rock with a taste of Tex-Mex thrown in for good measure instead of their usual all-blues mix.

Norway has truly been a blues have since 1998, when 13 music lovers in Notodden – about 70 miles west of Oslo – pooled their money to fund a hometown festival that quickly evolved into the largest event of its type in Europe, drawing 25,000 people or more annually. Four years later, the blues society in the nation’s capital founded the Norwegian Blues Union, an organization that provides workshops for younger musicians, coordinates bands’ tours and provides a network for about 70 other societies and nightclubs from the North Sea to inside the Arctic Circle.

Steven Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen E-Street Band and Sopranos fame conducts his annual Little Stephen’s Blues School in Notodden. A band program for both teens and young adults that’s produced several talents, it operates prior to the festival and culminates with a live concert by participants at the festival itself. And the University of South-Eastern Norway offers an accredited, two-semester course in the music.

It’s no wonder that Norse musicians are making the inroads internationally that they are today. Busk, for one, has gone on to capture a pair of Spellemann Prizes, Norway’s equivalent to the Grammys, while Andersen has become a world treasure as a multi-instrumentalist and album producer, too.

“It doesn’t matter where you are in the world,” J.T. insists, “The blues are a universal language. It’s a beautiful thing, and it’s even better when you’re playing with a band like the Buckshot Hunters that know each other so well after working 20 years together.”

They served as the backing band for Earl King — the legendary New Orleans guitarist who wrote Professor Longhair’s trademark song, “Big Chief,” and “Come On,” which has been covered by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix and Freddie King – at the Hell Blues Festival and soaked up blues history backstage from Louisiana Red and other bluesmen during other visits, too.

And American audiences have come to know Lauritsen well since 2006, when he sailed as a special guest on the first-ever fall Legendary Rhythm & Blues. He recording his CD Squeezeboxing for Severn Records in Maryland in 2007 and has toured frequently with Memphis-based harp player Billy Gibson since befriending him on another cruise a year later.

For the past two decades, J.T.’s also has been conducting blues cruises of his own, sailing for three days in the spring and three days in the fall on ships operated by Color Line. Spring trips feature European bands, but the fall journeys – which hold about 2,000 passengers – have become bucket-list dreams for blues lovers around the globe.

Traveling between Oslo and Kiel, Germany, that lineup is always loaded with top U.S. talent — Nick Moss, Mike Zito, Tad Robinson, Junior Watson, Gibson and dozens of others in the past. A weekend sailing, it takes place prior to the Dark Season Blues Festival, an annual event inside the Arctic Circle on the Svalbard archipelago a few days before the sun sets for the final time in the year. Many people who make the cruise spend three days on the high seas, get to enjoy Oslo for a day or two and then jet to Svalbard to take in the entire experience in a place like no other on earth.

A frequent visitor to Norway since J.T. invited him to perform on the ship, Gibson has performed about 150 gigs with Lauritsen across Scandinavia as well more together in the U.S. ever since. Some of those performances are available on Buckshot’s 2009 album, Live, which spans 14 years of travel.

A quality harp player himself, Lauritsen says his knowledge about the instrument expanded through conversations with Gibson rather than lessons. And Robbin Ford’s harp-playing brother/bandmate, Mark, provided more guidance during frequent Norse excursions in the ‘90s.

imageMark amazed me in how he can make a harp sound like a guitar,” J.T. remembers. “He’s an extremely technical, advanced player. Back then, I couldn’t imagine how he could do sounds like he did with all the effects and everything – something I understand today. And (Californian) Andy Just helped me too.

“All those West Coast players have a different style. The vibrato is different. And Rick Estrin…he’s different from all the other guys! If you want to learn, you have to understand how they do it by talking about it – and practice.”

A trip to Memphis along with his drummer, Big Jon Grimsby, in 2012 for the Blues Music Awards led to Lauritsen fulfilling one of his dreams: to record at the legendary Ardent Studios, where everyone from Al Green to ZZ Top has laid down hits since the ‘60s.

“We were staying with Billy, and talked about Ardent all the time because Billy’s house was two blocks away,” J.T. says. “The afternoon before the BMAs – on Thursday, I went there and asked if it was possible to have a room and an engineer available for Saturday. And they did.

“I spent the night asking everyone at the BMAs and the after-parties the next day if they’d like to come hang out with us. Fortunately for me, Victor Wainwright, Greg Gumpel, Deanna Bogart, Jimmy Carpenter, Mike Zito, Dave Fields, Willie J. Campbell, Reba Russell, Larry McCray and others all said yes!”

Released as Playing by the Rules, the disc featured several songs from that session as well as another that included the late Swedish guitarist Sven Zetterberg and others in Norway.

Lauritsen has been firing on all cylinders ever since. His 2018 release, Blue-Eyed Soul Vol. 1, it earned him his first-ever Spelleman nomination, and its follow-up, last year’s Blue-Eyed Soul Vol. 2, is just as strong despite the lack of promotion because of its release during the coronavirus shutdown. The response to the first disc was been tremendous internationally, he says, noting that it didn’t help that the titles steered listeners to the music even if they weren’t that familiar with him.

And, fortunately, there was a multitude of additional recordings that didn’t make it to the first CD, which came in handy when the world came to a screeching halt. “We went to Florida in January and February, did the Delbert McClinton (Sandy Beaches) cruise and the Boquete Jazz & Blues Festival in Panama, then we were home for three weeks – and BAM! Everything closed down,” Lauritsen remembers. “What was I gonna do? Vol. 2!

“I already had all this material, and did a couple of more sessions in March, too. The real magic for this one is that all of the horn arrangements were done by my friend Børge-Are S. Halvorson. It took everything into another direction than the first one.

“If you work with good people, great – and surprising – things happen. That’s something that’s happened over and over again in the past 25 years.”

Lauritsen was looking forward to return to the U.S. for this year’s Tampa Blues Festival, which was postponed for a year just prior to this interview. He’s still hoping to sail on both his own cruise this fall as well as the Legendary cruise, where he’s booked to host jams.

“If the gates open, I’m ready to come,” he says. “I want to play for people as soon as I can. I hope everyone takes the vaccine, but know that this virus will be here for a while. Take the shots, though. You can start living life more normal.

“It’s not dangerous,’ he insists, “and it’s common sense to do.”

Another thing on his bucket list is to travel to Chicago and do a Windy City-style blues album, something he’s been discussed with Moss for years. He’s also dreaming about returning to Tennessee for a new Buckshot Hunters release, too.

In the meantime, you can enjoy a small taste of Lauritsen’s beautiful tenor voice on a brand-new release: Curtis Salgado’s CD, Damage Control. That’s him harmonizing and singing counterpoint in support for the tune “I Don’t Do That No More.”

Like everyone else in the world today, J.T.’s in a quandary about what will actually happen next. “I don’t know what it’s gonna be,” he says. “But I’m working on new songs, and I’ll be ready – that’s all I can say!”

Check out Lauritsen’s music and learn more about him by visiting his website:

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.


 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6 

imageSelwyn Birchwood – Living in a Burning House

Alligator Records ALCD 4999

13 songs – 51 minutes

Selwyn Birchwood takes his musical message to an entirely new level with this powerful set, a mature, all-original collection that fulfills – and more — the promise he showed early in his career that’s already been littered with awards.

A Florida native who was born in Orlando and is based out of Tampa, he’s a former International Blues Challenge and Blues Music Award winner for new artist of the year as well as an Albert King Award honoree as best guitarist at the IBCs. And this CD, should cement him permanently in the upper echelon of the music.

The son of immigrants from the West Indies and United Kingdom, Birchwood picked up his first guitar at age 13. Initially inspired by Jimi Hendrix, he’s been dedicated to the blues since age 17 with influences that range from Lightnin’ Hopkins and Albert Collins to Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy as well as lap-steel superstar Sonny Rhodes.

Birchwood met Rhodes – a longtime Californian – at age 19 when Sonny became a neighbor after relocating to Florida. They connected immediately, and Sonny was so impressed by Selwyn’s talent even at that early age that he invited him to join him on tour during breaks from college, expanding the youngster’s guitar skills and teaching him valuable lessons about running a band and more.

An excellent student – Birchwood possesses an MBA degree from The University of Tampa, Selwyn formed his own band in 2011 and released two CDs – FL Boy and RoadWorn – prior to making his Alligator debut with Don’t Call No Ambulance in 2014. This is their third release on the label with the same lineup that delivered Pick Your Poison in 2017. They’re all business here, expanding their familiar sound by adding a keyboard player to the mix and Birchwood contributing glockenspiel as well as six-string, lap steel and his usual stellar vocals.

Recorded at Phat Planet Studios in Orlando and mixed and produced by Tom Hambridge who mastered it with Michael Saint-Leon at Switchyard Recording Studio in Nashville, the disc features Regi Oliver on baritone, tenor and alto sax and piccolo flute with Donald “Huff” Wright on bass and Philip “Squeak” Walker on drums. They’re augmented by newcomer Walter “Bunt” May on keys with guest appearances from Diunna Greenleaf and CeCe Teneal, who provide vocals on one cut each. Hambridge adds tambourine, chimes and backing vocals on two cuts.

“I’d Climb Mountains” fires out of the gate to open the energetic 13-tune set. It’s a driving blues in which the singer insists he’s as “serious as a heart attack” that he’d do anything necessary to get to his lady’s side. Heavy percussion alternates with guitar fills for “I Got Drunk, Laid and Stoned” as it describes a woman with serious issues – a message that continues the funkified “Living in a Burning House,” in which Selwyn notes: “My heart says ‘leave,’ but my legs won’t let me.”

The mood brightens with the hard-driving “You Can’t Steal My Shine,” which is constructed around the repeated lyric, then darkens again with “Revelation,” which is accented by lyrical and musical dissonance as the truth of the situation becomes clear. The storm clouds dissipate with “Searching for My Tribe,” a minor-key blues-rocker, as Selwyn states having to be always on guard against folks who want to stylistically confine him to a box, and “She’s a Dime,” a sweet, behind-the-beat tribute to a special lady delivered in classic soul-blues style.

The pace slows for “One More Time,” the first ballad in the set, with Birchwood shining vocally as he describes a bittersweet relationship that’s at a crossroads. Next up, the blues “Mama Knows Best” finds him bringing home a lady for the first time and his mother – voiced by Diunna – powerfully expressing disapproval and insisting “that woman will be the death of you”…something, Selwyn admits, that it took years before realizing she spoke the truth.

Four more pleasers — “Freaks Come Out at Night,” which comes with a Hill Country/North Florida feel, the high-test blues-rocker “Through a Microphone,” “Rock Bottom,” a funky complaint, and “My Happy Place,” a quiet ballad that celebrates returning home to comfort and love – bring the disc to a close.

Well-conceived from the jump and delivered with aplomb, Living in a Burning House is Selwyn and company’s best effort yet. Pick it up – and thank me later!

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.

 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 6 

imageCurtis Salgado – Damage Control

Alligator Records – 2021

13 tracks; 52 minutes

After a stripped-back duo album last time round (2018’s Rough Cut with Alan Hager) Curtis returns to a full band sound on a collection that covers all the bases – blues, soul, gospel and Rn’B. The album was recorded in three different studios, with three different sets of musicians, many familiar names to blues fans.

Five tracks were laid down at Kevin McKendree’s Rock House studio in Nashville, TN, with Kevin on keys, George Marinelli on guitar, Tommy McDonald on bass, Mark Winchester on acoustic bass, Jack Bruno on drums and Wendy Moten and JT Lauritsen on backing vocals. Four cuts come from Kid Andersen’s Greaseland studio in San José, CA with Kid on guitar, Mike Finnigan on organ, Jim Pugh on piano, Jerry Jemmott on bass and Kevin Hayes on drums. Four tracks were recorded at Johnny Lee Schell’s Ultratone studio, CA, with Johnny on guitar, Mike Finnigan, Jim Pugh and Jerry Jemmott again involved, plus Jackie Miclau on piano and Tony Braunagel on drums.

Other musicians involved include guitarists Dave Gross and Alan Hager and a three man sax section of Gary Harris and Michael Bard on tenor and Tim Bryson on baritone add to two tracks, their contributions recorded at a studio in Portland, OR, Curtis’ home base. That is certainly a huge cast list but the music is seamless and it is really only by looking at the credits that you can tell where any of the material was recorded.

The songs are all original bar one, Curtis writing with a wide range of collaborators: Vyasa Dodson, Mike Finnigan, Alan Hager and Dave Duncan are familiar co-writers with Curtis but there are also credits for Kevin McKendree, George Marinelli and Jackie Miclau, amongst others.

Curtis has one of the best voices in contemporary blues and soul and really testifies on “The Longer That I Live”, gospel-infused piano and organ to the fore on a song to which every ageing music fan will definitely relate: “When I go I’ll be screaming, hey, I ain’t finished yet”! The soulful “What Did Me In Did Me Well” is one of just two tracks on which Curtis plays harmonica, here in high-register, Stevie Wonder style.

“Oh For The Cry Eye” is a mash-up of gospel and jazz with Jackie Miclau’s ragtime piano set against Mike Finnigan’s churchy organ, Wendy Moten featuring on co-vocals with Curtis. We get rocking piano (from Kevin McKendree and Jim Pugh respectively) on “You’re Gonna Miss My Sorry Ass” and “Count Of Three” while the incredibly catchy “Precious Time” has intense slide guitar built round a wonderful hook. In the gospel-infused ballad “Always Say I Love You (At The End Of Your Goodbyes)” Curtis mourns the passing of a friend and sings emotionally about how you must always speak up so you don’t regret missing the moment. Curtis casts a critical eye at corporate greed and political failures, sounding quite angry as he semi-speaks the lyrics of “The Fix Is In” and blows his harp intensely in his solo.

“I Don’t Do That No More” is an apt statement for a recovering addict and this roadhouse rocker barrels along with more strong piano while the title track “Damage Control” is a mid-paced Rn’B number that proposes that we should deal with problems as they arise, rather than bottling them up for later.

Curtis also turns his hand to zydeco on “Truth Be Told”, joined by Wayne Toups on squeezebox and duet vocals. Two tracks feature the horns: a barnstorming take on the Larry Williams rocker “Slow Down”, the sole cover on the set, makes an excellent choice to close the album: combining lyrics about ancient history with New Orleans rhythms, “Hail Mighty Caesar” is completely infectious and you will find yourself singing the chorus long after the CD has finished playing!

Curtis Salgado is a terrific singer and this is one of his strongest albums to date, so naturally gets a strong recommendation from this reviewer.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.

 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 6 

imageJoyann Parker – Out of the Dark

Hopeless Romantics Records

11 tracks

Joyann Parker said her new release was made because, “People need music right now.” Her follow on to the well -received debut Hard Love contains eleven new songs that Joyann wrote in conjunction with Mark Lamoine, her guitar player. The recording and production started over a year ago in January 2020 and ground to a halt in March with only five of the eleven tracks completed. The effort began back up again in June, but slowly as fewer musicians were able to be in the studio together. They finally wrapped up the new CD up in August. The break in production allowed Parker to reflect on the project and the title track was born out of the pandemic’s effects.

Parker of course handles the lead vocals, plays guitar on three tracks and keyboard on three more. Mark Lamoine plays guitar, adds acoustic guitar on “Either Way (Paul Mayasich adds slide here),” and backs Parker on vocals on the opening number. Brad Schaefer (bass) and Bill Golden (drums/percussion and one backing vocal) are a steady and sure backline. Rich Manik handles the sax on tracks 8 and 9 and does some flute on the latter, too. Dave Budimir is on trombone and Dave Foley is on trumpet as noted below. The female backing vocalists are Laycey Dreamz and Patricia Lacy (tracks 2 and 11) and the male backing vocalists are Kenny Britt and Rory Hoffman on the noted track. Greg Byers sweetly adds strings to track 4 and the tile track.

“Gone So Long” opens the CD with a nice, slow southern rock twang with acoustic guitar and a stomping beat. The single “Carry On” follows, with a funky beat, soul, blues and gospel overtones. Parker spins Old Testament-based lyrics in a song highlighting the human struggle and our need to stay the course through it all. The pace is quick and the song evokes hope as Joyann lays it out for us. The electric guitar and organ are slick, the guitar solo is great and the backing vocals take us to church. The album continues with “Bad Version of Myself,” featuring more of an R&B and funk sound and offers some interesting harp work, kind of in an old Stevie Wonder style. Parker continues the vocal assault and powers through this one, showcasing her prowess.

“What Did You Expect” is a 1970’s pop rock piece that reminds the listener of Jackson Browne. The cut is lively and allows Parker to have fun romping through the lyrics. Organ and guitar interplay and do an outstanding job. “Either Way” is a sweet rock ballad that Parker displays a softer side but also gives us controlled power in her performance. The slide also adds a nice layer of coolness to the track. Things change course with “Predator,” with Parker giving us lots of Latin flavor and channels a bit of Amy Winehouse; the cupped plug effects on trumpet and the keys and guitar blend into a fine performance as Parker sings with authority.

The piano and trombone come out and Parker takes us to New Orleans in “Dirty Rotten Guy.” Joyann shouts out to the ladies about the kind of man she’s telling us about. “Come On Baby (Take Me Dancing)” gives us a 1950’s popular R&B feel as Parker sings with joy. The guitar and sax play powerful parts and the male backing vocals contrast well with Parker’s strident voice. With “Fool For You” the sax continues to fill things out and the guitar drives the groove as Parker again sings with a controlled form of reckless abandon. The feel is rock and roll, a la the Peter Gunn theme and it’s again a lot of fun to listen to.

The next track we get lots of big, rousing guitar. “Hit Me Like a Train” is described as a Chuck Berry song, but I’d describe it more as southern rock, reminiscent of the post-Duane Allman brothers era with Dickey Betts and Chuck Leavell. There is some wicked slide, rousing piano and killer vocals. The guitar solo and instrumental support is solidly excellent and the song is a fun and wild ride. Parker concludes with the title track where she shows knock-your-socks-off conviction and bares her soul for all of us to see. Guitar and organ are layered in tastefully and Parker knocks it out of the park vocally.

While this is not a Blues album, Joyann delivers a mix of straight-up rock, southern rock laced with a country flair, R&B and funk here. Parker’s voice is sultry when it needs to be, powerful when it ought to be, and it is expressive all the time. She has range and control and feeling with her delivery. She is optimistic and has determination that once this is all over and we achieve some sort of norm that things will be better. Her songs and words reflect that. She quotes Churchill, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Parker is grateful and her cup is certainly of the half full and not the half empty variety. Kudos for an album of positivity and hope and more importantly for a great new album for us to listen to!

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 

imageThe Rusty Wright Band – Live From The End Of The World – First Wave

Sadson Music

8 songs plus spoken segments time – 56:26

When life hands you lemons…You make a whiskey sour…Duh! The Florida based The Rusty Wright Band has presented its’ listeners with the musical equivalent of said drink. Unable to perform live shows to an audience, they taped one of their streamed concerts and packaged it in a clever manner with a creative and humorous introduction that owes a debt to Orson Welles’ “War Of The Worlds” radio broadcast. The band is way tight and energetic. No overdubbing was used, everything right off the floor. Rusty and his wife Laurie on guitars and vocals backed by the bombastic rhythm section of Nic Allen on bass and drummer Vail Hayes. Everything composed by Rusty except two thirds of a medley.

“Goin To Nola” gets things off to a rousing start in a blues-rock vein. His guitar playing is sharp as a tack. I’ll be dad gone if his vocal on “Chinfoot Ball” doesn’t bare a similarity to that of Bnois King, formerly with the late great Smokin’ Joe Kubek. They lay down a powerfully uplifting groove on this number. They shuffle it on “Devil In The Details” and rock it out on guitars assisted by strong bass playing.

Bluesy guitar kicks off the slow cooking “Trouble’s Always Knocking”. He continues to unleash a searing axe attack as the song progresses. Husband and wife trade off vocals on the Texas style rocker “World Upside Down”. Rusty turns in perhaps his best vocal performance on “No Man Is An Island”. “Love Treat You Right” has a hint of a Lynnard Skinnard vibe.

A three song medley puts a wrap on the show. “You Can’t Lose, Walkin’ The Dog At The Crossroads” starts off with a funky original that segues via wah-wah guitar into Rufus Thomas’s “Walkin’ The Dog”, ending up with a wicked reading of Cream’s version of “Crossroads”. They undoubtedly do it justice.

A welcome and enjoyable diversion during these troubled times. Much powerful and well executed music is to be found here. After first hearing the spoken chat segments, you can just program them out on your CD player. This is as close to the live experience you can get until venues open back up. Enjoy!

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.


 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6 

imageTiny Legs Tim – Call Us When It’s Over

Sing My Title

CD: 6 Songs, 30 Minutes

Styles: Traditional Electric Blues

Call Us When It’s Over, by Belgian bluesman “Tiny Legs” Tim De Graeve, is a blurb of an album. Six songs and thirty minutes long, it’s a collection of traditional-sounding blues in the COVID era. It happens to be the sixth studio release by this artist, which is rather a surprise to yours truly. It’s debut-length and debut-quality; make of that what you will.

Five of the numbers are originals, and “Going Down South” by R.L. Burnside rounds it out. The good news is that Tim’s guitar is crystal clear, as are the second guitar of Toon Vlerick, Mattias Geernaert’s bass, and Bernd Coene’s drums. The bad news is that Tim’s mellow vocals sound like they’ve been filtered through a curtain. You’ll have to turn your stereo or headphones all the way up to hear a proper balance between singing and instrumentation. That said, it’s real-deal blues.

It’s one that we’re lucky to have. You may still come across Tiny Legs Tim as the one-man band that took the scene by surprise in 2008. Back then, the thirty-year old debutante had been in and out of the hospital for six years, fighting for his life. The first original material based on this most personal experience came shortly afterwards. It was profoundly inspired by black acoustic players from the ‘20s till the ‘50s, such as Son House.

Ever since, his fan base has grown and seasoned peers have paid their respects. Not one to repeat success for the sake of it, TLT moved on artistically. Having written his own material from the onset, he is profiling himself as a singer-songwriter who is familiar with all the genres that blues/roots music has to offer.

“Love Come Knocking,” the opener, is arguably the best song on this recording. TLT’s riffs are cool and classic, his vocals smooth and understated. It reminds me of a scene from a movie set in the Big Easy, NOLA, with its mention of the “boogie doctor” and a “brand new mojo hand.” Nevertheless, our narrator finds hard luck, “out in the street again.” The rip-roaring guitar solo and rat-a-tat drumsticks in the middle add some heft.

Call Us When It’s Over is a tasty hors d’oeuvre, but it could use a little more meat to sustain you!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 40 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 

imageThe Flaming Mudcats – Forever And A Day

Mudcat Music

14 tracks

I first got to hear New Zealand’s Flaming Mudcats in 2012 on their debut album and was totally impressed. When they told me they were coming to America in summer 2013 we added them to our first ballpark festival in June. 2014 saw their follow up album and we had them at Lyran Park in 2015 at our fest. 2018 saw their third release and here with their fourth album the guys add fourteen original songs that they wrote and arranged. It’s always a fun time to get and hear their new stuff!

The band is Craig Bracken on lead vocals, harp and tenor sax, Doug Bygrave on guitar, Johnny Yu on bass, backing vocals and acoustic guitar, and the venerable Ian Thompson on drums. Guest musicians abound here, mostly revolving around a horn section that plays a big role in the sound and feel of the album. Andrew Hall on sax, Mike Booth on trumpet, and Jono Tan on trombone make up the horn section. Ron Stevens adds the Hammond organ and on piano is Mike Walker. Steve Cournane is on congas and percussion.

“All Around the World” sets things in motion. It’s a funky cut with a nice groove. Hammond organ and horns help out here, with early solos on organ and trumpet. Bracken sings with emotion and Bygrave wails on his guitar. A sax solo is the last of the solo offerings. All in all, this is a great hook to get the ball rolling. “Shake It” follows, with more good vocal work by Bracken and Yu in support. A thoughtful guitar solo is followed by a tenor sax solo are sweet and the horn support throughout is nicely done. Bracken breaks out his harp on the jumping cut “Friday Night.” He and Bygrave trade licks and it’s a fun time with lots of harp to appreciate. Next is “On The Town,” a medium tempo-ed blues shuffle with more good harp and guitar. We get to swing and jump with “On The Up,” where harp, guitar and piano give us some pretty solos. “Good Behavior” follows, a track with some more funkiness and horn arrangements. The guitar solo rings out for the listener to take notice here. The tenor sax and horns interplay with the vocals a bit; it’s a fun ride. “I’ll Be Fine” is next and opens with some more swell horn work. Bracken croons and state’s how he’s a changed man to his woman. The horns blare and the organ supports then well, too.

“100 Days” kicks off the second half of the CD. It’s a somber blues ballad with vocals, organ and guitar driving the cut. The harp solo is sublimely cool. Bracken offers up another thoughtful guitar solo that’s special, too. Next is “C’mon Baby,” a slick cut with more horns to enjoy. Sax and guitar solos are also very fine, here. “My Baby’s Alright” turns things down tempo-wise in a jazzy feeling cut. The sax take s a turn first at a solo and later the guitar offers one up, too. “So Glad” opens with some more harp in another song with a nice, funky feel to it. The harp is featured throughout as Bracken blows some distorted and cool stuff as the backline helps drive the cut along. The guitar finishes things off and then the harp fills in with it for the outro. “Your Daddy” is a fun song with Bracken asking his girl why her daddy doesn’t like him. A medium tempo swing, it moves along well. The guitar solo and later harp solo help sell this one. Things finally start to break out with “Black Limousine,” a driving cut with honky tonk piano. Bracken adds some more cool harp to the mix as does Bygrave on his guitar; over all it’s well done! The album concludes with “Forever And A Day” with a down home feel. Lots of hand clapping and fun here as the boys have a good time and Bracken chugs on his harp.

I enjoyed the album and all the great original songs. If there is one, minor complaint it might be that I was waiting for one or two of the songs to cut loose and open up the pace a bit more- more dance numbers! But the stuff here is all good. Bracken excels on vocals and harp, Bygraves guitar shines and the horns play a big role in the over sound and feel of the album. It’s always an exciting thing to get a new album from these great New Zealand musicians and I was so happy to get and hear this new one. It’s too bad they live on the other side of our planet because The Flaming Mudcats always put on a great show and now have fourteen fine new tracks to add to their repertoire!

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.

blues and rhythm mag ad image

BB logo

© 2021 Blues Blast Magazine 116 Espenscheid Court, Creve Coeur, IL 61610 (309) 267-4425

Please follow and like us: