Issue 16-10 March 10, 2022

Cover photo © 2022 Joseph A. Rosen

 In This Issue 

Mark Thompson has our feature interview with new Blues power couple Annika Chambers & Paul DesLauriers. We have six Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne, Simon Kinny-Lewis Band, Big Dez, The Atomic 44’s, George Benson and Diane Durrett and Soul Suga. Scroll down and check it out!

 Blues Blast Early Bird Ad Special 

 Lowest Prices of the 2022 Season! 

Blues Blast Magazine’s Early Bird Special is our lowest priced advertising package of the 2022 year. It offers an affordable & effective way to get the Blues word out!

This 8-issue discount ad campaign allows you to add significant impact to your Blues advertising and promotion campaign. It is a great way for artists to solicit festival gigs or can be used to kick up the visibility of your summer Blues festival, new album release, Blues event or music product all around the globe! This is perfect for a new album release, a festival advertising campaign or any new music product.

Normal 2022 Advertising rates start at $175 per issue of Blues Blast magazine. BUT, for a limited time, our Early Bird Special gives you eight issues of Blues Blast Magazine for only $500. (A $1400 value!)

Blues Blast Magazine is a great way to promote anything Blues. 42,000 opt-in subscribers read Blues Blast Magazine. Our subscribers are located in all 50 states and in more than 100 countries world wide giving your products global coverage at an affordable price. Weekly issues of Blues Blast Magazine are also posted on our popular website. We get more than 2,000,000 (That’s TWO MILLION) hits and 75,000 visitors a month at our website.

To get this special rate simply buy this package by APRIL 15th, 2022!!!! Ads can run anytime between now and December 2022. So get your ad package now for that fall album release!

With this special rate, your ad gets viewed by readers who want to know about YOUR Blues events and music! So reserve your space today! Space is limited and will be sold on a first come, first served basis.

Other ad packages and options, single ads, short run ads or long term bulk rates available too at

To get more information or reserve your space now email or call 309 267-4425 today for an ad plan that fits your needs.


(Ads must be reserved and paid for by April 15th, 2022)

 Featured Interview – Annika Chambers & Paul DesLauriers 

imageOver the decades, there have been a number of couples united in love as well as their musical tastes. Lil Hardin and Louis Armstrong, Memphis Minnie and Joe McCoy or Ernest Lawlars, Carol Fran and Clarence Hollimon, Ann Peebles and Don Bryant, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks are just a few of the couples that have made beautiful music together.

For a powerhouse singer from Texas and a noted guitarist from Canada, love came sneaking up on them in the nick of time. Together, Annika Chambers and Paul DesLauriers have met the world head-on, dealing with the pandemic shutdown that stalled their careers, major health issues, and the effects of racism.

Bursting on the scene in 2015, Chambers quickly become a favorite on the world-wide blues festival circuit. Her high energy performances and vocal prowess have brought her much acclaim, including six consecutive Blues Music Award nominations, sponsored by the Blues Foundation, in the Soul Blues Female Artist category, an award she took home in 2019.

DesLauriers has been building his career for decades, touring across Canada before finally starting to make inroads in the US and international scenes after a strong showing at the 2016 International Blues Challenge in Memphis. He and his band have received numerous nominations for the Maple Blues Awards, the Canadian version of the Blues Music Awards. DesLauriers has received two Entertainer of the Year awards in addition to several Guitar Player of the Year honors.

Like many other singers, Chambers got her start singing gospel music in church. Her vocalizing very well could have begun at a very, very young age.

Annika Chambers – “My Granny said that when I came out, I was making noise, if you can imagine that! I joined the youth gospel choir around the age of eight or nine years old, then when you get older you move on to the bigger choir. I only sang lead on one song, because I would get so nervous to sing or speak in front of people. So I only got one solo. That was when I was 15 years old. The next time people saw me singing, it was on stage when I was in the U.S. Army.

“My influences early on were Mahalia Jackson and Shirley Caesar. One of my favorite singers, Yolanda Adams, was out of Houston, Texas, where I am from. Those are the singers I was listening to growing up. I feel that you can really hear that gospel foundation in my singing voice. Gospel music was the end all, be all in our house. My grandparents raised me, and my Granny was very Southern Baptist, so it was a strict upbringing.

image“When I put out my first album, I wanted her to hear it. One of the songs on it was called “Barnyard Blues.” The lyrics go, “All the hens get quiet when the cocks come around.” When she heard that, she turned it off because that is not how she raised me. She has several grand kids now, and understands that times are different than when she grew up. That, no pun intended, we are “Wild & Free!’

Like his wife, DesLauriers was attracted to music early on, spurred on by his two older sisters and a brother. They were always listening to records, so he got to hear the Beatles and other rock-&-roll bands.

Paul DesLauriers – “We had a piano at home, so I would tinker around on that. I am French-Canadian, and brought up Catholic, so I was sent to the nuns to learn music. They taught me to play classical violin, which certainly helped develop my ear for music. But hearing all those records got me interested in the guitar. Around the age of ten, I got heavily into guitar, and that totally became my whole world.

“Through the blues-rock players of the 1960s and 1970s, I discovered where it all came from, And that, of course, is blues music. So I delved into the greats like B.B. and Albert King, Albert Collins, and Muddy Waters, and even further back. That was what really appealed to me.”

DesLauriers started playing professionally at high school dances in his hometown of Cornwall, Ontario, Canada when he was fifteen years old, and soon after was playing in clubs before he was of legal age, playing three or four gigs a week while still going to high school, with math class at 9am.

After graduating high school, Chambers joined the Army. Her first deployment took her Kosovo for an 18 month stretch. Once she arrived, she joined the gospel choir at the church on the base. Opportunity soon came knocking.

AC – “They decided to put on a base-wide talent show, so me and the choir entered. I led the choir like I was Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act II! We ended up winning the competition. Afterwards, a guitar player came up me to say that he would like to teach me about blues music. That was Paul Ramirez from San Antonio, TX. The next time they did a talent show, he suggested that we do a blues tune.

“The first blues song I learned was the Chris Smithers song that Bonnie Raitt had a hit with, “Love Me Like A Man.” Totally unlike how I perform now, I just stood on stage in in my PT uniform with the microphone, just singing. When I look back at a picture, I look so boring! But that made me want to know everything about the music. I didn’t have the connection because we never played blues in the house. So in 2005, I started ingesting this music that I had a unique connection to on a regular basis.”

Her husband has been singing right from the start, learning to harmonize from listening to records. For him, singing and playing guitar went together. It wasn’t just about playing guitar, When he was performing, singing was an integral part of the whole experience.

imagePD – “Somebody in the band has to sing. I just did it, because, first of all, I love it, and it wasn’t a conscious thing. It was something you just did it. I was fortunate to have a lot of opportunities for us to cut our teeth playing live in clubs, bars, and school dances. I saved calendars from those days as a teenager where I marked every day I had a gig. Man, those things were full every month through school, summer, and holidays. That is a testament to how much I loved playing. I spent a lot of time sitting on the couch at home practicing, then doing it for real.

“After high school, my parents insisted that I get an education. My way of getting around that was to study jazz guitar at McGill University in Montreal. Jazz is not my wheelhouse, but I didn’t want to disappoint my parents. But halfway through that process, I realized it wasn’t for me. It was not a necessary path for me to succeed as a musician. I was still playing gigs, and the opportunities kept multiplying. You have to get out there in the real world and learn the craft, the business. My parents had a lot of trepidation back then. My Mom has lived long enough to see me have a measure of success.:”

AC – “We did a gig recently in Paul’s hometown. She came to the show, then afterwards were at her house. She looked at us, saying “You people have something special!”

Chambers was in frequent demand during her Army career, singing at ceremonies and as part of shows designed to entertain the troops, whatever she could do to fill her time. As her enlistment was coming to an end, she had a decision to make.

AC – “I told my Colonel that I thought I was meant to sing. His answer was: ‘ if it was anyone else, I would be try to retain them. But Sgt. Chambers, I see something special in you.’

“So I was honorably discharged in February, 2011. Then I started going to school in Houston to get degree in singing. It was school by day, jams at night until I was able to get a band together, trying to build some traction.

“We entered the local blues challenge. That is where I met Richard Cagle and Larry Fulcher, bass player for the Phantom Blues Band. They were judges that year. They had been looking for an opportunity to work on a project together. After hearing us, they offered to help me put a demo together. Originally set for four songs, it turned into my first full album, Making My Mark, which was nominated for a 2015 Blues Music Award in the Best New Artist Debut category.

“We didn’t have a budget, no nothing. But musicians from all over Houston wanted to be on the project. People just offered their time and talent. I think we had 21 people on the record. That is why we listed it as me, backed by the Houston All-Stars. I left the Army ten years ago. It has been a crazy ride, but dreams do come true!”

DesLauriers made it to Memphis for the International Blues Challenge for the first time in 2012, making to the finals in the Solo/Duo category, paired with Dawn Tyler Watson, who won in the Band category in 2017. DesLauriers returned with his trio in 2016, finishing second in the Band category

PD – “That was a fantastic experience. We were coming in as unknowns, three guys coming in from Canada, where we were well known. But we hadn’t toured much in the states. The point of being in the Challenge is to represent yourself and your music in an honest light. That worked out for us beautifully, and opened a lot of doors internationally. I have tried to be there every year since just to network, and to do some showcase events. It is true that the most important part of the Blues Challenge is the connections you can make at the largest Blues gathering in the world in less than week’s time.”

imageThe couple had heard about each other, but did not actually meet until the finals for the 2018 Blues Challenge. Paul made his way across the lobby to say hello to Annika.

PD – “It was one of those “ our eyes met from across the crowded room” moments. We briefly said hello. I was tongue-tied, and I think she was too!”

AC – “Yeah, can you imagine us being nervous?”

PD – “I probably said something about being friends on Facebook. Then somebody came up to talk to us, and we got sidetracked. A couple months later, we were both appearing at the Bonita Springs Blues Festival in Florida. I was playing at the Center Bar after the fest with my band, and Annika sat in with us. We saw each other again the following January. That was when things exploded for us. Three months after that, I asked her to marry me under the Arch in St. Louis. Much to my delight, she said yes.”

The time they spent together in January came several days after the end of a different relationship that Chambers had been in. She figured they would have lunch, hang out a bit. She never expected to fall in love again so quickly.

AC – “When the love bug hits you, it hits you! We hung in Memphis for the week of the Blues Challenge, then stayed an extra week to spend some time together away from the hoopla of our musical lives. It was clear we had a connection, something bigger than just a fling. We saw each other again the next month. Anybody that can me get me to come from the South to the North in the dead of winter, I must really like you.

“We were both finishing records, so we had plans to get together again at the end of April for a little road trip through the Midwest. I love St. Louis, so we stayed there a few nights. We had already talked about marriage but I didn’t know if Paul was serious. He was almost 50 years old, had never been married.

“When I was younger, I went to St. Louis on a church trip. I was exposed to seeing women getting proposed to at the Arch. I thought if I ever get married, I want the ceremony to be at the Arch, and I had mentioned that to Paul. So we had breakfast with a friend Saturday morning, then went for a walk. When we got to the Arch, he got down on a knee and proposed to me.”

PD – “And then her phone rings! She says this is about my merchandise, I have to take this call, and proceeds to answer the phone. There I am on one knee, she is on the phone, and the people around us were wondering what was going on.”

AC – “I’m telling the person I have to hang up. Paul is kneeling, and says, so will you marry me. Everyone around us is waiting for an answer. I said of course. We hugged and had our memorable moment. A few days later, we were in Memphis where I received my first Blues Music Award for Soul Blues Female Artist. I was having a real good week!’

Another part of the trip was a visit to Houston for Mothers Day, so Annika could introduce Paul to her family. Now the visit became more serious.

imageAC – “Now he had to ask my Mother and Granny for my hand in marriage. My grandmother was totally fine with it. My Mother had me when she was 14 years old, so we are like sisters, best friends. She wasn’t so accepting at first.”

PD – “She had visions of me running off with her daughter, taking her to another country, and never seeing her again. Who is this absolute stranger coming to my house trying to take my daughter away from me.

“Mom finally gave in. A couple months later we were back in Bonita Springs playing a benefit concert for Joe Connors, who had been Annika’s guitar player. He had a life-threatening medical emergency. We flew down there to help raise money. We were outside the venue when this beautiful 1956 black & white Chevy Bel Air drives by. We looked at each other, saying that is the car we should get married in.

‘The people in the car were friends of Joe’s, and heard what we said. The lady in the passenger seat said she was an officiant, that if we went to the courthouse and got a marriage license, she would marry us the next day. We looked at each other, said let’s do it! Twenty four hours later, we were on Barefoot Beach at sunset getting married, including the couple in the car that drove us to the wedding. It was perfect because it solved the problem of trying to get our aging families together. Our mothers watched the ceremony on Facetime. It was beautiful and uncomplicated.”

Like a lot of musicians, the pandemic shut down both of their careers. The lengthy lockdown allowed them to move beyond the personal attraction, where they clicked on many levels, and explore a musical partnership, which became a welcome therapy. They were living in Florida, which gave them a chance to jam with guitarist J.P. Soars and his drummer, Chris Peet. Done initially for fun, it developed into a full album that will be released later in the year on the VizzTone label.

PD – “ The tentative title is Umoja Soul, which is a Swahili word for “unity”. It represents a meeting of minds by people who love and respect each other musically and in life. It has been a wonderful time putting it together. We are very excited to start performing the music live.”

AC – “We are just capturing the times, and putting it down on paper. We want to share different messages as we offer people hope for the future. Whether it is stand up and speak out, or give a little more love, we are trying to get people to hear the message like the Staple Singers used to do.”

In addition to the pandemic turning their careers upside down, the couple also had to deal with several major health issues that affected Paul, one of them life threatening.

PD – “I was in Montreal for a gig right as the pandemic hit. They were starting to close the borders, so I had to make a quick decision. Stay in Canada in the cold or go to Florida to be with my wife in the beautiful weather. So I packed a suitcase, grabbed a guitar, and left Canada, figuring it be OK in a couple weeks. Four weeks later, I started having severe excruciating pain, convulsing on the floor. Annika saved me by calling an Uber and getting me to the hospital. The next day they removed a gangrenous gall bladder that was poisoning my system. I came home to my favorite nurse, who took great care of me.”

AC – “That is when he realized why he married me! I had been in panic, so I had to turn off my “wife” mode and go into the “soldier” mode. It was a matter of life or death. He was probably hours away from checking out.”

imgeIt took months for DesLauriers to recover, aided by the shutdown which left them with nothing but time. He knows it was a blessing that he was home and not out touring when he got sick, as he probably would have ignored his symptoms, honoring “the show must go on” creed, then dying in a hotel room. His surgery created another issue that required him to undergo hernia surgery several months later.

In August of 2018, the guitarist suffered a traumatic brain injury when he fell, at an event that he has no memory of except for waking up in the hospital. After three weeks of bed rest, he went back out on the road with gigs calling and a European tour coming up fast. He continues to deal with dizziness, vertigo, and cognitive fog while being thankful that his ability to play guitar and write songs did not suffer impairment.

PD – “I was an idiot, ignoring all common sense. After 18 months, it became apparent that I could no longer function like I did before I fell. The blessing for me is that I now have someone in my life who cares for me, who knows when I hit the wall. She has saved my life. The beauty of our relationship is that we don’t have had to explain to each other why we do what we do, never have to justify the sacrifices we make for our love of music. I just want to walk through life hand in hand with this amazing woman.”

AC – “Your health is all you have. Men can be stubborn when they are out on the road trying to get things done. There are some things you can’t push through. The doctor told me that if we had waited even an hour later, it would have been a dire situation. He was in the hospital all alone while I was sitting here waiting for the doctor to deliver some good news when she Facetimed with me.

“I always thought I’d have someone in my life that wasn’t a part of my musical career, to have that contrast. It ended up that men would feel left out because they felt I wasn’t making time for them. But when it is your life’s work, what you are meant to do, to me it seems selfish to ask someone to give that up. I am very vibrant, happy-go-lucky woman most of the time. But I have some wounds from the war, and from growing up with teenage parents, being raised by my grandparents. It is great to have someone who can pick me up, remind me that I am not alone.

“We had to adjust to marrying someone from another country. It has not been easy to deal with immigration issues lately, getting Paul a green card and permits for me to travel and perform in Canada.

“Then there is the issue of race. Being a Northern boy, Paul was not conditioned to things as I am being from the South. I had to point things out to him. Now his attitude is that if you don’t respect my wife, you don’t respect me.

“After George Floyd died, we were out protesting, going live on Facebook. Paul got some messages telling him to get your wife in check, that I was going to lose gigs. At the end of day, people need to understand that I am going to stand up, to fight for equality, the belief that we all deserve to live peacefully. I don’t know why some people thought he is my master. At times it is too much. But we have a beautiful thing together. You have to trust your gut and follow your heart.”

PD – “The attitudes of some of my close friends definitely changed. Canada certainly has it’s own issues with race and indigenous cultures. It is not a perfect paradise either. However, the a notion of superiority based on the color of a person’s skin was not instilled in me at a young age or as I was growing up. It has been very eye-opening, and strange for me, and I don’t notice some of the stuff because I’m a white guy. But being with Annika has helped me realize the effects that this has on her and others. It has brought on a lot of learning and soul-searching, strengthening our resolve to walk through this life hand in hand.”

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

iageKenny “Blues Boss” Wayne – Blues from Chicago to Paris

Stony Plain Records SPCD 1443

17 songs – 70 minutes

One of the most decorated bluesmen based in Canada, Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne delivers a big tip of the hat to two of his inspirations, frequent playing partners Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon, and putting his own touch on 17 tunes of their compositions, ranging from some familiar standards to minor pleasers. It’s a wall-to-wall treat for anyone who loves powerful, two-fisted old-school piano.

A three-time Living Blues magazine keyboard player of the year who’s captured a Juno Award – the Great North’s equivalent to the Grammy – and seven Maple Blues Awards, too, Kenny’s an American ex-pat who was born in Spokane, Wash. His mother planted his interest in the blues through her love of Nat King Cole, Fats Domino and Little Willie John, and the family moved to New Orleans before settling in Los Angeles.

Gathering further inspiration from keyboard giants Erroll Garner, Ray Charles, Charles Brown, Big Joe Turner and Floyd Dixon, Wayne became a fixture in the Southern California music scene in the ‘60s and ‘70s, primarily working alongside top pop and rock artists. Now 77 and a member of the Boogie Woogie Piano Hall of Fame, he’s been based out of Vancouver, B.C., since the ‘80s.

This is the 14th album in Kenny’s solo career, which began in 1995 with Alive and Loose, and follows the well-received Go, Just Do It as his sixth on the Stony Plain imprint. He’s in fine voice in this 70-minute set that comes across with cocktail lounge sensibilities and timeless appeal. It was recorded at Arc House Studio in Kelowna, B.C. Drummer Joey DiMarco and bassist Russell Jackson (B.B. King, Alicia Keys) provide the only backing.

The uptempo “Rock and Rolling This House” opens the action with call-and-response vocals from Kenny and Russell, breathing new life into a tune Slim wrote and he and Willie first recorded at the Trois Mailletz club in Paris in 1962, an era that produced many of the songs you’ll hear here. It flows into a run of six Dixon numbers that begin with “The Way She Loves a Man,” which originated in the same set.

Kenny displays his mastery of both hands on the ballad, “New Way to Love,” which follows, before a delightful take on “Reno Blues,” which features light runs on the 88s and Jackson doubling on the chorus. The uptempo shuffle, “African Hunch,” follows atop a percussive rhythm pattern before yielding to the sprightly song of desire, “Just You and I.”

Slim’s familiar 1960 classic, “Messin’ Around (with the Blues),” slows the pace before three more Dixon numbers, beginning with the stop-time pleaser, “One More Time.” The action heats up again from the opening notes of “Somebody Tell That Woman” before Wayne and Jackson share the mic for Slim’s “Stewball,” a standard that pays tribute to a racehorse with iron-gray hair, and they team again for Willie’s “After While,” which opens with a brief, but pleasing run on the upright bass, the unhurried “Got You on My Mind” and the uptempo “Don’t Let the Music Die.”

Slim’s “Pigalle Love” precedes Dixon’s familiar “I Ain’t Gonna Be No Monkey Man” before “I Got a Razor” and “Wish Me Well” bring the action to a close.

Available through most major retailers, Blues from Paris to Chicago will put a smile on the face of anyone who loves traditional blues piano.

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 

imageSimon Kinny-Lewis Band – King Biscuit

Self released

10 songs, 41 minutes

Robben Ford, the groundbreaking Jazz Fusion Blues Roots guitarist, has his own hybrid genre of Blues. Founder of the Fusion band the Yellowjackets, Ford plays his Blues with complexity and heart, with a special ear toward high end electric guitar sounds. Using elaborate substitution chords and finger cramping high wire technique, Ford has created a style of Real Deal Blues that is as much indebted to John McLaughlin as it is Buddy Guy. Australia’s leading firebrand of the Ford school is Simon Kinny-Lewis so it is fitting that his excellent new album King Biscuit is produced by none other than…Robben Ford.

SKL, as he is often referred to, is following up a pair of live in the studio records in which he and his band indulge in spontaneous energy. King Biscuit is every bit as exuberant but benefits from clean and crisp production. There is nothing experimental or ground breaking in the production, it just perfectly presents the music. The experimentation and exploration comes from the performances and arrangements. SKL offers here, just like on his last 2 outings, pretty standard cover selections – “Little Red Rooster,” “Crawling Kingsnake,” “Goin’ Down Slow,” etc. But, as is Kinny-Lewis’ conceit, he ramps these covers up into a Robben Ford frenzy of Jazz Rock chaos that leaves these almost hackney tunes fresh and reborn.

Kinny-Lewis is a virtuoso guitarist. Blistering speakers with chromatic runs, modal flights of fancy and arpeggiated passing chords SKL has a deep trick bag. The revelation of King Biscuit is Kinny-Lewis the singer and slide guitarist. This record is deep with high end guest guitarists. Including producer Ford who takes lead on one track and offers rhythm on 2, Josh Smith the Roots music wunderkind, Kirk Fletcher one of the few guitarists who could truly replace Jimmie Vaughan in the Thunderbirds, and Down Under countryman Ray Beadle all take over lead guitar responsibilities from Kinny-Lewis. As a result SKL lays in hard to his slide playing with the same kind of complex sophisticated abandon that he frets. The easing of lead guitar duties also allows the listener to appreciate SKLs consistent and solid singing. Using a linear horizontal phrasing similar to Mark Knopfler but with an underlying grit and gravel, SKL testifies these songs with conviction.

A core rhythm section of longtime drummer Tony Boyd, bassist Rob Ewan and keyboardist Nate Ginsberg pin down the music with passion and thump. Harp ace Andy Just studs a number of tracks with rasping harmonica and pianist Shannon Stitt offers 2nd keyboard depth to 2 tracks. Special guests Christian Howes offers keening violin transcending “Parchment Farm” and Lacky Doley plays a wild whammy clavinet (Google it, it’s worth it) on “You Can’t Judge a Book By It’s Cover.”

In spite of all the collaboration, King Biscuit is completely Simon Kinny-Lewis. SKL’s talent radiates out of these tracks. So often on quest besieged records the tracks without any extra personnel sound thin or out of place. Not the case here. Kinny-Lewis and his band are the main event and the guests serve to highlight how effective the base crew is. King Biscuit is a great SKL record. It is also a great Blues Rock Fusion record and stands tall next to Robben Ford’s towering monument of work. A great accomplishment for both Robben Ford and Simon Kinny-Lewis.

Reviewer Bucky O’Hare is a slide guitarist, songwriter and singer. Based out of South Eastern Massachusetts, Bucky plays Slide Guitar Soul Jazz and Funk Blues inspired by the music of the 60’s and 70’s all around New England.


 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 6 

imageBig Dez – Chicken in the Car and the Car Can’t Go

Socadisc Records – 2021

Ten Tracks; 37 Minutes

When the cover of an album has a cartoon chicken character driving a car instead of photos of the musicians, you can bet that the band members know how to have fun, and the latest release by Big Dez is evidence of that ability. Big Dez’s sound appears to combine Chicago and Texas styles with rock, soul, and humor. However, the band is international and was selected in 2009 to represent France in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Founding member, guitarist and singer, Phil Fernandez, was born in France to a Bosnian mother and Spanish father, but lives in Amsterdam, although he also travels to Chicago periodically to immerse himself in the blues. This, the band’s tenth release, contains all originals written by Fernandez. Reportedly the plan was to record this album in Chicago, but with the travel restrictions of the pandemic they ended up having it mixed in Chicago remotely (by Jim Godsey), after being recorded in France.

The album opens with the upbeat title track which is so catchy it will leave the listener singing the “hook” without really knowing why there is a chicken in the car. Similarly, the song “300 Miles for a Chat” makes us wonder what the back story is that led to those intriguing lyrics. “Oh! Baby Doll is a fast-paced old-fashioned rock-and-roll number with some excellent boogie-woogie piano by Lea Worms. And, Guillaume Destarac’s skilled drumming is particularly great on the Latin-influenced “Flip the Coin”. However, all the musicians are masterful, and the vocals are sometimes layered in quite interesting ways. “Fall in Love Again” is a sweet and beautiful ballad, and then the listener is thrown back to the familiar fast-paced, fun and rocking sound of the remaining songs.

Listeners in search of an album with deep, meaningful lyrics might be a bit disappointed in this release, as none of the tracks appear likely to have life-changing influence. However, those who like hearing extremely talented musicians playing mostly upbeat, danceable and fun blues and blues-rock songs are bound to enjoy this latest album by Big Dez.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 6 

imageThe Atomic 44’s – Volume One

Bird Dog Records

9 tracks

In 2020, Eric Von Herzen, harmonica man for Walter Trout, Social Distortion,The Atomic Road Kings, Junior Watson, and Johnny Main, vocalist and guitarist for The 44’s came together to form the Atomic 44’s. It’s a big and bad collaboration with lots of fire and brimstone raining down on the listener. It’s hot and it’s really good stuff with nine new cuts.

Adding to the mix are an assembled group of fantastic musicians. There is the great Jim Pugh on keys, the outstanding Gary Ferguson on drums (Etta James and Gary Moore), the solid and long standing bassist Bill Stuve, Taryn Donath who I also on keys, the ebullient Deb Ryder adding her backing vocals and Kid Ramos adding some more guitar (The Proven Ones, Roomful of Blues, The Fabulous Thunderbirds). This is an all star crew backing two incredible musicians and they blend and meld together oh-so-well.

The album opens with “The Boogeyman,” a hot blues boogie with ringing guitar and stinging harp. It’s a slick number and nice hook to start things off. Barbwire & Fences’ follows, a coming of age song and landing in jail and a life in and out of the slammer. It’s a dark, slow blues with more greasy harp, a biting guitar solo and some emotional vocals. “Fade To Black” has some angry blues shouting, a driving beat and more seminal harp work. The guitar makes another solo appearance but it’s the harp that’s the star here. Up next is “Olivia,” a greasy and grimy harp tune with a nice, long instrumental intro. The boogey returns with some good piano and guitar guiding the musical flow. “Candyman” follows that, which is pretty much and instrumental follow on to what happened the prior track and it’s cool!

“Ol’ Mexico” is next with a driving beat and wailing harp and guitar and howling vocals. Next is “Lyin’ Still” and the harp continues to blare and blaze and the guitar and organ add depth and cool factors to the cut. Slow and hot, it’s another great cut bemoaning his woman ignoring him while talking to every man in town. The guitar adds to the feeling and has a poignant solo. “Saints & Sinners” is a slower piece where the lyrics decry the life of sin that he can’t make his way out of. There is more big harp and guitar are featured here. The concluding number is “My ‘49” with a driving beat and wicked phrasing. The song is about his old car and his love for it. The guitar rings loudly and the halrp continues in it’s musical assault. Well done!

This is a hot album and it’s big and ballsy and full of grit and power. I loved it and recommend it to all blues lovers as something that should grace their musical collections!

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

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6 

imageGeorge Benson – Weekend In London

Provogue Records

14 tracks

Live from Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club is this latest George Benson album entitled Weekend In London. It is a great compilation performance of Benson’s classics and several covers that George turns into that slick, smooth jazzy mélange of sound that he perfected. Released in November 2020, Benson’s live performances here still brings everything to the table that he’s famous for; he and his band are spot on and deliver fine renditions of these wildly popular tunes. This album made the circuit for the music awards in 2021 and was nominated for a Blues Blast Award for Best Live Album. Benson cut his musical teeth at this club in the 1970s and he returned there to record this set of 14 songs that are released on Provogue Records.

“Give Me The Night” opens the live set and it’s his great pop soul funk tune that lived on the Top 40 for a long time. George and the band really have fun with it. Originally produced by Quincy Jones, this cut was probably the top of the top of heights for Benson’s pop career. “Turn Your Love Around” continues in that vein with another Benson classic as no one else can do it. The 1980 tune “Love X Love” is next which also made the top 10. Not only Benson had great success with this; Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey also had good runs with it. “In Your Eyes” is another great Benson love song that is up next. “I Hear You Knocking” is George covering the NOLA Smiley Lewis classic; he takes it at a slow, cruising tempo and there’s lots of nice piano here to enjoy. Gerry Goffin’s “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You” first appeared in 1985 on Benson’s 20/20 album. Roberta Flack’s hit “Feel Like Makin’ Love” gets a nice cover; Benson first released this in 1983 and it still sounds cool.

“Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” is a sultry and George Benson-ified version of James Taylor’s hit song. It’s got the pop jazzy soul feel Benson gives to his work and it works here. Elvis Presley’s “The Ghetto” was first released on Donnie Hathaway’s initial album as a mostly instrumental soul funk tune and Benson stays true to that. Next is “Moody’s Mood” where Benson skats a bit and takes this 1949 James Moody and The Modernists’ sax filled jazz improvisation of “I’m In The Mood For Love” that Eddie Jefferson added lyrics to in 1952 and makes it his. “Love Ballad” is up next, something Benson first records for this album. A 1976 single by L.T.D., Benson expresses himself in this tasteful cover. “Never Give Up On A Good Thing” is a 1982 Benson original that still sounds great today. Next is “Affirmation,” Benson’s 1976 top instrumental hit. Written by Jose Feliciano, this song is how I was introduced to Benson right after I graduated college. Smooth, flowing guitar and backing instrumentals make this a classic. The album concludes with “Cruise Control,” his 1998 instrumental from his Standing Together album. Benson is known for his smooth jazz and here we get him laying all the licks out there to enjoy on this big instrumental.

Benson made jazz accessible to the masses with his popular style and easy to listen to phrasing. His guitar work remains impeccable. He’s got a superb band with him here and they deliver the songs that Benson’s fans will enjoy. It’s a great way for new listeners to see what George has done and can continue to do!

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 – 6 of 6 

imageDiane Durrett and Soul Suga – Put A Lid On It

Blooming Tunes Music

8 songs, 32 minutes

Diane Durrett is a mainstay on the Atlanta Roots music scene. A board of governor’s member and former VP of the Atlanta chapter of the Recording Academy (the Grammy’s), Diane has had a long and varied career. On her new record Put a Lid On It, Durrett employs her bright, controlled voice on a set of original material that offers her unique and at times irreverent take on current events.

Durrett works with her long time backing band Soul Suga. For Put a Lid On It this includes Melissa Junebug on drums in lock step with Fuji Fujimoto and Gregg Shapiro holding down the bass. Yoel B’nai Yehuda offers excellent keyboards and flourishes of brass are provided by Mike Burton on saxophone and Melvin Jones on trumpet. Tomi Martin, Cody Matlock, Ian Schumacher, and Daniel Groover all contribute guitar work. Adam McKnight and Peggy Still Johnson offer backing vocals. Fellow Georgia legend Tinsley Ellis does some hot six string wranglin’ on one guest shot.

Diane Durrett is a very talented singer. With an airy, breathy delivery that floats and soars, Durrett’s lush vocal chords are mostly surrounded by low key, emotive accompaniment on Lid. The tone is set by the slow jam piano ballad opener “In My Soul.” The feel good adult contemporary vibe of “We Got It” and “Sweeter Love Grows” offer Durrett space to expand her ethereal singing. More gritty are the Tinsley Ellis featuring title track and the tongue in cheek “Make America Groove.” Stand out track “Good News” offers a darker funk and allows Durrett to show off some of the fire she exhibits on earlier records.

Put A Lid On It is a sentimental and heartfelt blast of catharsis. At 32 minutes, almost EP length, this feels like a nice check in from Durrett the singer/songwriter about how she’s doing and how she’s getting through these tumultuous times.

Reviewer Bucky O’Hare is a slide guitarist, songwriter and singer. Based out of South Eastern Massachusetts, Bucky plays Slide Guitar Soul Jazz and Funk Blues inspired by the music of the 60’s and 70’s all around New England.

BB logo

© 2022 Blues Blast Magazine 116 Espenscheid Court, Creve Coeur, IL 61610 (309) 267-4425

Please follow and like us: