Issue 16-11 March 17, 2022

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Cover photo © 2022 Marilyn Stringer


 In This Issue 

Bucky O’Hare has our feature interview with Mike Zito. We have six Blues reviews for you this week including new music from The Sully Band, Peter Veteska & Blues Train, Bert Deivert, The WildRoots, Bob Stroger & the Headcutters feat. Luciano Leães and Big Al & the Heavyweights. Scroll down and check it out!


 From The Editor’s Desk 

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Hey Blues Fans,

The 2022 Blues Blast Music Awards will be announced on Monday. Like last year all submissions must be digital.

Albums released between June 1, 2021 and May 31st, 2022 are eligible.

Lots of great new things happening. Be sure to check out the new nominations categories as we look for the best in Blues music in our 15th annual Blues Blast Music Awards series.

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser


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 Featured Interview – Mike Zito 

image“Recording is an opportunity to stretch out, branch out. We’re gonna make a studio album every few years. I try to make records that are kinda more Blues infused. I’ve never really gone into the studio and said let’s make a Blues record, I’ve never really done that. But I’ve made Blusier albums, and then I just kinda keep doing my thing. I push it a little further and then I kinda bring it back.”

Mike Zito is the insatiable creative fire at the heart of modern Blues. A scorching guitarist, impassioned singer and clever songwriter, Zito is also a committed artist. His art is Rocking, it’s energetic and brings lots of joy and fun. A self made man, Mike has throughout his career held the rains of his own destiny. Teaching himself the art of making records, in the early 20-teens Mike expanded his skills from solely chasing down his own muses to helping others realize their art. In 2018 Zito and partner Guy Hale founded their own independent record label Gulf Coast Records as a way to give back to friends and fellow artists who hadn’t gotten a fair shake from the record industry. What started as a boutique side project exploded into an artistic revolution in the Blues community making Gulf Coast the home for a stable of creative iconoclastic genre defying artists.

First to understand the fresh Gulf Coast sound, one needs to understand the perpetual motion machine that is Mike Zito. During the long Covid slow down Mike did what a musician does, produce music. But, Mike produced a bunch of music. A triumphant guest laden Chuck Berry tribute album, his major artistic leap of a record Resurrection (not to mention a one off Quarantine Blues record) and the recently released double live album Blues for the Southside.

“I guess it depends on how you look at it,” Mike quips. “It’s hard to make records when you’re touring constantly and on the road. You have to work on ‘em a year in advance and write songs because you have limited amounts of time cause you’re doing another job. Touring, traveling, entertaining, I mean if you’re doing the job that I do. So, to have 2 years off (haha) seems to me everybody should be writing songs and making music. That’s what we do, that’s our job. Everyone should have released new albums and made new music. I don’t feel like I went crazy out of my way, I feel like I did what we’re supposed to do. I’m not being catty, I don’t know what everybody did. I get that a lot, ‘wow you’ve been really busy, done so much.’ That makes me think hasn’t everybody, or is it just me?”

Mike Zito has the nonchalance of a person who has a natural talent. It is in Mike’s nature to keep producing, keep doing his job, so he can’t understand how remarkable and unique that is. It is this same natural drive and commitment to wherever the muse takes you that propelled Gulf Coast Records from humble beginnings into a force to be reckoned.

“Sincerely, no one set out to start a record label. It doesn’t sound like a good idea.” Mike jokes, laughing. But he admits “It does now, we put a lot of work into it. But, you know, if you ask Bruce Iglauer (founder of Alligator Records), Thomas Ruf (Founder of Ruf Records) one of these guys: Hey, should we do this? I can hear Bruce’s voice in my head saying ‘oh, that’s a terrible idea don’t do that.’ So I guess my point is it was never a dream of mine, I never thought (in a silly voice) ‘and one day I’m going to own my own record label, that’s my goal.’ That was never my goal.”

imageSo if it was such a bad idea, where did the record label come from? It was born out of Mike’s deep commitment to his friends and fellow musicians and his irrepressible good nature. Mike tells us the origin story:

“Guy Hale, he’s a dear friend I met in England when I was touring with the Royal Southern Brotherhood, 10 years ago – 12 years ago, (chuckling) I’m not good with time anymore. And we just hit it off. He was a businessman, but he also wrote. He wrote songs and played a little guitar. He’s an excellent writer. We just hit it off over the years. He does a lot of charitable work in England and you know I’m in recovery and he was doing work for homeless kids that were on drugs and things and kinda dear to my heart. In 2018 he said ‘well, I’m retiring and what are we gonna do? Let’s do something in the music business.’ (chuckling) I was like ‘what you wanna get in a van and drive around with us, you know?’ What would we do, I mean this is what I’m doin’. He said well just think about it.”

“So we met on the Blues Cruise 2018, we were all on the cruise together, my wife, him and his wife. I said ‘you want to do something? We could start a record label.’ I said it should be very small because I don’t have time to run a record label. I’m trying to sell Mike Zito, not everybody else. I said but maybe we can help small artists. Growin’ up in St. Louis there were always great artists but they didn’t always write their own music they didn’t know how to make a record. You know a lot of artists don’t even know how to get started. I’ve done all that so I thought well this would be good. We’re not gonna compete with Alligator or Ruf Records, we’re just gonna make small low budget recordings to help somebody you know get the ball rollin.”

“So that was literally the beginning of Gulf Coast Records,” Mike reminisces. “And that was the idea and the plan. Our first release was Tony Campanella, one of my close friends since I been 18 in St. Louis. He was a prime candidate for this type of opportunity. You know, come to my house, we’ll make the record, I got the studio won’t cost anything. We’ll spend a little money to put it out. And in the process of that I was also still producing for Ruf, I was still a Ruf recording artist.”

Then came Ruf Records labelmate and close friend Albert Castiglia and his genre shattering new album: “I produced Albert Castiglia’s album Masterpiece. I love that record,” Mike gushes. He explains the concept Albert and he went for:

“I don’t know if it’s a Blues record or not, we’re generally not always thinking hey let’s make a Blues record. We’re trying to make new music. Albert had a story that was amazing. He found out he has a child, at 50, that lives 30 minutes away from him for the past 10 or 15 years, I mean it’s crazy. You needed an emotional record and we didn’t want musicians to get in the way. Less people involved, he didn’t want all that playing involved. We needed the emotion to come through. In the Blues genre that’s not a typical record. You don’t use a drum machine or drum loops or all that kind of stuff. Albert may not ever make a record like that again, it’s not really what he sounds like and that’s why we made it.”

Slated to be a Ruf Record release, when Mike and Albert brought it to their label owner, Thomas Ruf, the reaction was not what they expected.

image“Thomas Ruf didn’t like it at all. He didn’t think it sounded good, he didn’t understand (chuckling) why I played drums. He said ‘you’re not a drummer, why are you playing drums on my album?’ Because we don’t want a good drummer, we’re trying to do this other thing. You know I get it, he just didn’t wrap his head around it, just didn’t understand what I was trying to do. He didn’t want to put it out and he wanted us to re-record it and Albert said no way. I have a very good relationship with Thomas Ruf still today, I love Thomas Ruf. I learned so much from him, he’s my friend, he’s given me so many opportunities. And I understood why he didn’t like it.”

Necessity being the mother of invention, Masterpiece ended up being a line in the sand for Castiglia. It also became a big game changing opportunity for Gulf Coast. Zito was reluctant, not because he doubted the album at all, but because he didn’t think his small label had the bandwidth.

“Albert had had enough and he was like ‘yeah I’m not re-recording this.’ He stood by it and he said ‘well you put it out Mike. Would you put it on the new record label of your’s?’ I was like ‘man, we’re not a record label.’ I mean Albert Castiglia is already famous and gettin’ Blues award nominations and touring internationally. Course my partner was biting at the chomp because he’s a businessman that ran a million dollar operation. He’s never done anything small in his life. He was like ‘let’s do it.’ So, within 3 months we bought this Albert Castiglia record from Ruf Records and we had to put it out and it was like okay well now we need a lot of money (ha); hire real publicists and radio promotion. And so it was all of a sudden trial by fire.”

Mike the seasoned veteran knew the drill. “I mean luckily I’ve been around, I know.” But, the scale of it all was overwhelming and the cost was concerning.

“Every time we spent more money I was like oh, my God, how we gonna make money? You know I don’t have any money, I’m just doing the work and I keep thinking: how we ever gonna get paid? We’re not gonna ever make any money (haha). This is terrible, this is terrible, no no. And finally I just gave in to it and was like alright we’re running a record label apparently and that’s that. And I mean I’m totally committed now, we’re all in. And that record went on to win the 2020 Rock Blues Album of the Year at the Blues Music Awards.”

As with most things over the last 2 years Covid had a huge impact. The wind in the sails of Gulf Coast Records suddenly dropped. But, Mike Zito the eternal upbeat positive kept it rolling and the record label expanded including signing a big fish: Mike Zito.

“After Masterpiece it was like well okay let’s dive in and we started diving in. And then of course Covid hit and that made things horrible, but we kept putting out records. You know we’ve made mistakes, we’ve learned. I’m very fortunate we had some finances to work with, but I feel like right now in 2022 we’ve got a really good handle on what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. And now I’m on the label. I put my first Gulf Coast Records album out last Summer with Resurrection. And I don’t mean that I’m a huge deal but (chuckling) I’m the biggest deal we got going around here. You know I need to be on the label cause when I go on tour and I’m sellin’ my record on my label I’m promoting the label. The record label’s on tour when I’m on tour and that’s what we need. It’s made a big difference in 6 months, you know, huge.”

imageMike’s first Gulf Coast Records release was 2021’s Resurrection. “I think Resurrection is a good idea of a Mike Zito record for whatever that means.” Mike, reveling in independence, boasts “that’s just what I sound like when I’m makin’ my own music you know.” But Mike the entertainer is always thinking of his fans, balancing his stretching and more experimental side with his passionate and highly skilled Blues.

Resurrection, I had it all in my mind; let’s just keep pushin’ and doing something’. I had David Z to help me make it sound fresh and new and mix the shit out of it. You know, give it his treatment. At the same time I knew in 6 months I’m gonna put this live record out and I’m gonna re-record all of my Blusier material off of Ruf Records on 1 live album. It’s more like those are fan favorites that we play all the time. I wanted a copy of them on my label for one. And for two I wanted a Blusier outing. You know what’s funny we make a new studio album, we’ll get 3 songs off the new album into the show. That’s as many as I can get (haha). Because the people want to hear, you know I’ve got 18 albums, they want to hear all these other songs. So when we’re playing live it’s more of a Blues Rock show. That was kinda what the deal was, to stretch on the studio album, kinda bring it back in on the live album.”

And stretch they did. The centerpiece of Resurrection is a blistering rendition of the Blind Faith classic “Presence of the Lord.” With drums that sound like their in the Grand Canyon and an extended Rocking outro, Zito’s “Presence” turns the low key originals lament on its ear. Zito again shows his artistic values for, as he would say, pushing and stretching. What the listener can enjoy as a fresh unique perspective.

“I had somebody ask me ‘why did you do it so bombastic?’ We did record it at first and we did it like the original. And it was good, it was nice. But, I had some time and I listened to it and I was like why would you want to listen to me do this when you can hear the great Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton do this? We can’t do it as good as them. I mean you can’t be better than those before you, but we can do something different. We should re-record this and let’s like rock it like YEAH like we’re excited you know (chuckles). And I’m happy that we did that because that’s me, that’s my style and again I feel like why would we ever copy somethin’ when you can listen to the original?”

Zito adds: “we play ‘Presence of the Lord’ every night!”

Mike Zito and Gulf Coast Records are now united. The Gulf Coast roster is stacked. Castiglia has a new studio record coming out. A follow up to Kat Riggins’ 2020 Soul Rock fever dream Cry Out is on the way. Zito released his outstanding double live album Blues for the Southside recorded in his hometown of St. Louis. Castiglia and Zito are hitting the road as the Blood Brothers tour all year. Including Campanella, Dave Kalz and IBC winner Kevin Burt, Gulf Coast is a diverse and eccentric crew. Allowing artists the freedom to stretch, to realize their dreams and make manifest their realities, Gulf Coast sets a standard for creativity. This is lived by its endlessly creative and humble founder and producer:

“I was convinced by Ruf Records ‘bout 2010 to produce my first record, like professionally. And I had never done that before professionally. I didn’t know that I could do it. I mean I’d been making my own albums since I was in high school. Rented machines and 4 track recorders, tell my friends I was goin’ into the studio. And over the weekend I’d figure out how to write my songs and record ‘em and mix ‘em down to tapes and bring the tapes to my friends. Then I did all my own releases, CDs, from 1997 on up, for a long time. So I thought oh okay, then I started producing. I was enjoying it, I love recording, I love makin’ music.”

To find out where Mike is playing near you be sure to check out his website at https://www.mikezito.com

To find out more about Gulf Coast Records visit https://www.gulfcoastrecords.net

Interviewer 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.


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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6

imageThe Sully Band – Let’s Straighten It Out!

Belly Up Records/Blue Elan Records

www.sullyband.com

10 songs

A good, slick Soul band is gold. Being able to interpret, not just cover, classic material can make a night and keep a venue rocking. You need a great singer, not just a copycat of one of the masters, you need a great rhythm section – bass and drums working in perfect funky unity – and if you can put together a horn section: fire. The Sully Band is this type of unit. On their debut record Let’s Straighten It Out! they show the goods. Recorded mostly live over 5 days in the studio, this loose concept record detailing the many sides of love through various 60’s and 70’s cover songs is a smooth, at times surprising, romp.

Bob “Sully” Sullivan is a long time music lover who 35 years after trying to make it in the mean streets of 80’s LA has fully embodied his musical muse. A clean and clear singer, Sully has a dirty “blue-eyed soul” quality to his voice expressing the miles he’s tread and the joy and passion at the heart of Soul music. Bassist James East anchors the band with energetic low end. The band sports a hot horn section featuring Tipp Sprague on sax, flute and harp and Steve Dillard on trumpet and flugelhorn. The secret weapon is singer Rebecca Jade who sings backgrounds and a thrilling duet on the Dr. John written Bonnie & Delany and Aretha Franklin covered “When the Battle Is Over.”

Grammy Award winning producer Chris Goldsmith helps Sully and Co. to fashion a sound that is referential to the source material but also unique and of its own. Well-worn chestnuts and deep cuts are equally given the Sully Band stamp. With clean placement of the instruments – guitar in the left ear, organ/piano in the right, drums and bass down the center – the band is allowed to show off their party skills. The Shuggie Otis hidden gem “Ice Cold Daydream” is given it’s crunchy guitar rock due. Billy Preston’s “Nothing from Nothing” has a modern Funk to it with a surprising banjo groove during the outro. The Albert Collins plea “If You Love Me Like You Say” is given a 2nd line NOLA thump and the aforementioned opener “When the Battle Is Over” has a very hip chanting vocal line that thunders.

The Sully Band really surprises when it reinvents. The album title track is a Latimore nugget, all 70’s spoken word cool. Here Sully forgoes the spoken rap and soul shouts over the layered horns, modern R&B movement of bassist East and the smooth electric piano. Similarly unique but on the other side of the musical spectrum is their album closing interpretation of Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher.” Taken at a slower pace with big strumming guitar and tambourine laden percussion, Sully takes this work horse through a John and Yoko “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” filter. Rephrasing the lyrics and never overreaching for those high notes, Sully shows he knows how to accentuate his talents.

The Sully Band seem to be making a splash in the San Diego/Southern California music scene. For good reason. This is a tight crew with a soulful and unique front man and some high end talent. Let’s Straighten It Out! is a killer set that shows what this band can do without showing off. This is heartfelt homage and thoughtful interpretation and as such it is at times a thrilling new approach to Soul.

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.


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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 6 

imagePeter Veteska & Blues Train – So Far So Good

Blue Heart Records – 2022

www.peterveteskabluestrain.com

12 tracks; 54 minutes

This is the band’s sixth album release since 2014, though this time it is credited to Peter Veteska, rather than the short form ‘Peter V’. The band again recorded in New Jersey with engineer and co-producer Joseph DeMaio and the band remains unchanged from previous releases: Peter on guitar and vocals, Coo Moe Jhee on bass and Alex D’Agnese on drums, though Jeff Levine’s keys add to the basic trio on most of the album. Several guests also appear: guitarists Roger Girke and Paul Boddy appear on one cut each, bassist Rick Prince on three; harp players appear on eight tracks, Mikey Junior on six, Gary Neuwirth and Derek ‘Slim’ Matterson on one each. Horns are added to one track (Tommy LaBella and Doug DeHays on sax, Steve Jankowski on trumpet). Jenny Barnes shares the vocals with Peter on two tracks and Kimberley White, John Fernandez and Chuck Lambert help out on vocals on two other songs. The material was written by Peter, with lyrical help on six tracks from Patti Marz who gets fulsome praise in the credits for her help with the lyrics, photos and support throughout. In addition to the originals there are four covers.

“Done With Bad Luck” opens with thunderous drums, swirling keyboards and a chunky guitar riff as Peter seems determined to make positive strides, whatever curve balls are thrown at him; Gary Neuwirth adds some strong harp support to this rocking opener. The pace drops for a piano-led slow number, appropriately entitled “I’ve Got The Blues This Morning” showcasing Peter’s rough-hewn vocals. The first cover is “I Miss You So”, written by Morgan Babb and originally sung by Lillian Offitt in 1957, but perhaps most familiar from Jimmie Vaughan and Lou Ann Barton’s cover on Plays Blues, Ballads And Favorites; Peter shares the vocals with Jenny, both doing a good job. Mikey Junior’s harp features strongly on the next two tracks: “My One And Only Muse” is a shuffle while “Young Bold Women” is a late career James Cotton tune, co-written with Tom Hambridge and given a rhumba groove by the rhythm section, Chuck Lambert sharing the vocals with Peter.

“Lovin’ Oven” has a swinging sound from the organ, some well-crafted double entendre lyrics and nice guitar and harp work, before a cover of the Guitar Slim tune “You Give Me Nothing But The Blues”, Peter and Jenny taking alternative verses and the horns providing additional firepower. Peter takes his time on the intro before he sings about those “Low Down Dirty Blues”, the song matching its title well!

The final cover is Johnnie Johnson’s “Baby Please” which appropriately features fine piano work by Jeff, Mikey again excelling on harp. “East Coast Blues” is a strong, upbeat cut with great slide guitar by Paul ‘Slideman’ Boddy while the title track has a more mellow feel with percolating organ underpinning the tune. The album closes with Peter exasperated by people’s inability to behave properly towards each other as he asks why “Can’t We All Get Along”, played to a gentle, lilting tune.

This album seems to be less “rocky” than previous discs by Peter and his band. The four covers take the music into some different places and the closing cut is very different indeed. All credit to Peter and the band for producing a varied 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 – 3 of 6 

imageBert Deivert – I Ain’t Leavin’

Self-Produced

https://www.deivert.com

CD: 10 Songs, 41 Minutes

Styles: Acoustic Blues, Mandolin Blues, Roots, Americana

Bert Deivert’s I Ain’t Leavin’ is a celebration of the mandolin: a staple of country, roots and Americana, but it’s taken a back seat to the guitar in regards to the blues. This Boston-born musician, now based in Sweden, brings it back with classic style. On nine original songs and an arrangement of a traditional tune (“I Can’t Feel at Home”), Bert lets his favorite instrument do most of the talking. That being said, he’s also a master lyricist and storyteller. Check out “Badge 623” and “I Heard the Dark Roads Call,” reviewed below. Though his vocals are conversational, this fits the mellow atmosphere of this 41-minute CD. If you’re looking for a party album, it might not fit the bill, but it’s perfect for a drive through the country at the start of spring.

Deivert’s 14th album is a rediscovery of songs left behind, and new ones telling stories of a long life playing music. How long, you might ask? His career began more than fifty years ago. He’s performed in 24 countries and collaborated with hundreds of renowned artists around the world: Peter Case, T-Model Ford, Charlie Musselwhite, Eric Bibb, Wanda Jackson, and Thailand’s national treasure Nga Caravan. Most of his fans don’t realize that he started out as a recording artist, producing original songs and releasing six albums on Swedish audiophile label OPUS 3 between 1978 and 1983. Some of his early albums are described on the Internet as “Loner Acid Folk,” but Bert wryly avoids commenting on these.

Joining Bert on lead vocals and instrumentation are his partner in life, well-respected Swedish fiddler Eva Deivert, and his daughter Emmy adding backing vocals on two songs.

The first four songs set a relaxing vibe, though “Stand By Me” is nowhere near as catchy as the tune by Ben E. King. Hit the “forward” button on your CD or MP3 player to “Badge 623,” detailing the tragic murder of his policeman grandfather in 1930. Blending tragedy and horror in seamless fashion, it pays homage to an honorable man who died long before his proper time. Eva Deivert’s fiddle adds an extra-poignant touch. Two tracks later, “I Heard the Dark Roads Call” tells Bert’s tale of hitchhiking to Canada rather than going to Vietnam: “Stuck on a dark road. Headlights shining on the tar. Sleeping under bridges – I wasn’t getting far. . .I met deserters and draft dodgers. They were far from home. Listened to some street songs, made some music for the throng.” When it comes to playing the blues, there’s no greater inspiration than life itself.

Though he’s in Sweden, Bert Deivert’s Americana shines on I Ain’t Leavin!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 43 year old female Blues fan. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.


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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 6 

imageThe WildRoots – The WildRoots Sessions Vol. 2

WildRoots Records CD2022A

15 songs – 55 minutes

www.wildrootsrecords.com

A decade before Victor Wainwright and his group, The WildRoots, took home Blues Music Awards in 2016 as band and entertainer of the year, they were delivering some of the hottest blues on the scene of their home base in Central Florida. They celebrated their lengthy partnership last year with a stellar, star-studded retrospective and follow it with this collection which carries it forward without dropping a beat.

Co-founded by Grammy nominee Wainwright and the award-winning production team of Stephen and Patricia Ann Dees – he’s the former bassist for Hall & Oates, Pat Travers and Todd Rundgren and she’s a multi-instrumentalist vocalist who plays sax, keys, harmonica and bass, they came together in 2005 when Stephen was producing Victor’s debut solo release, Piana from Savannah. Their lineup always featured a moveable feast of top talent that included guitarist/vocalist Robert “Tap” Thomas, guitarist Greg Gumpel, sax player Charlie DeChant, harp player Stephen Kampa and percussionists Billy Dean and Alberto Cruz, all of whom are present here.

And they proved to be such a favorite that national touring acts frequently joined them on stage, too – something that’s evident in the grooves of this set, which includes appearances from Reba Russell, Lucky Peterson, Pat Harrington, Nick Black, Billy Livesay (Clarence Clemons/The Livesays), Anthony “Packrat” Thompson (Packrat’s Smokehouse) and 14 other guests, including Mark Hodgson (Midnight Creepers), Beth McKee (Evangeline), Todd Sharp (Delbert McClinton) and 21-year-old gospel sensation Brianna Harris, too.

Unlike volume one, which contained multiple well-executed covers along with originals, all of the 15 songs in this set – a mixed bag of contemporary and traditional blues, gospel and roots — are penned by Dees either alone or in partnership with Patricia Ann, Victor and Bryan Bassett, who adds lead guitar on three tracks.

Wainwright and Patricia Ann share vocals on the opener, “I.O.U.,” an unhurried shuffle that preaches the need to celebrate with interest the love you share with a significant other. Packrat’s warm, Southern-tinged baritone takes command in “Lazy Little Daisy,” a humorous description of a woman who does little more than snack and nap, before Reba and Patricia Ann team to deliver the acoustic blues pleaser, “Long Way to Go.”

The WildRoots turn mic and lead guitar duties over to 22-year-old Dyer Davis, front man of the band Rubber Soul Child, for “The Bad Seed,” an uptempo, contemporary blues before Wainwright takes command for “I Feel Fine,” a soulful, unhurried and lushly arranged ballad that looks forward optimistically to better times ahead.

Next up, the sound hints at the ‘50s and the Andrews Sisters as Victor tinkles the keys with only rhythm-section accompaniment as McKee teams with Reba and Patricia Ann to deliver “That Man of Mine.” The feel doesn’t last long, however, because “The Threads of Time,” which follows, is a rocker delivered by Hodgson and propelled by Bassett’s guitar before Patricia Ann’s in charge for “Sweet Louise,” a rootsy request that the beloved sister of the title return after far too long an absence.

The sounds of an engine turning over open the rocker “Working for My Car Blues,” which features Livesay at the mic, before Wainwright takes command as only he can with Hodgson on harmonica for the barrelhouse instrumental, “WildRoot Boogie.” The feel shifts dramatically with “Put Your Hand in the Fire” as the Dees partner for a little acoustic hokum then yield to Top for “Pile of Blues,” another acoustic pleaser that bemoans ambitions going down the drain.

The band takes listeners to church to close the disc beginning with Victor delivering the rousing, horn-fueled “Good Word” before Patricia Ann goes acoustic for the unrushed “I Say Amen” and Brianna shines on the powerful closer, “Ready When the Day Is Done.”

The WildRoots hit a home run with their first collection and go yard with this one, too. This one’s available online, but do the band a favor and order it from the band’s website (address above).

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.


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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6 

imageBob Stroger & the Headcutters feat. Luciano Leães – That’s My Name

Delmark Records 871

13 songs – 53 minutes

www.delmark.com

One of the most beloved artists and best bassists ever to set foot on stage in Chicago, Bob Stroger hasn’t released many albums as a front man in his 91 years, but every time he does so, it’s special. And that’s never been more true than with this CD, which teams him with The Headcutters, one of the foremost proponents of the traditional Windy City sound despite hailing from South America.

Bob’s family relocated from Hayti, Mo., to the Second City in 1955 when he was 16. They rented an apartment along the L tracks a few miles from the Loop and in the rear of the same building that housed Silvio’s nightclub, the epicenter of the blues on the West Side where Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed and Elmore James held court.

A self-taught guitarist, Stroger’s entry to the music came after his as brother-in-law, guitarist Johnny Ferguson, hired him to drive him to his gigs alongside J.B. Hutto in his early band, The Twisters. Bob eventually formed a family band, the Red Tops, which included his brother John on drums and cousin Ralph Ramey on harp and evolved into Joe Russell – Stroger’s short-lived stage name – and the Blues Hustlers when bassist Willie Kent joined their ranks.

After a stint in jazz, Bob picked up the bass and spent 15 years backing guitarist Eddie King, making his debut on disc when cut the single, “Love You Baby,” in 1965. A top session player, he toured internationally with Otis Rush in the ‘70s and ‘80s, worked frequently with Sunnyland Slim, Odie Payne Jr. and other Chicago stalwarts. In recent years, he’s appeared nationally as a member of the Bobs of the Blues, his frequent partnership with Bob Margolin and Bob Corritore.

This disc is only the fifth under his own name in his 70-year career and his first since teaming with Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith on Keeping It Together on the Big Eye imprint in 2014. This disc was captured at Grooveland Recording Studio in The Headcutters’ hometown, Itajai, Brazil in November 2019 and Estudio do Arco in Porto Alegre a few months. A skintight unit deeply imbued with a ‘50s Windy City sound, they’re composed of guitarist Ricardo Maca, harp player Joe Marhofer, bassist Arthur “Catuto” Garcia and drummer Leandro “Cavera” Barbeta. They get a helping hand from keyboard player Luciano Leães and saxophonist Braion Johnny.

Junior Parker’s familiar “What Goes on in the Dark” kicks off the action atop an unhurried shuffle, and Stroger’s warm vocals belie his advanced age. Marhofer’s harp runs, Maca’s lead lines and Leães’ organ fills fit like a glove. It eases into a classic take on Eddie Taylor’s “Just a Bad Boy” before Bob breathes new life into the Ma Rainey standard, “CC Rider,” which first appeared on record in 1924.

If you’re thinking he’s doing nothing but covers, however, you’re wrong. Stroger penned five tunes in this set, beginning with the next cut, “I’m a Busy Man,” which hints at Magic Sam’s “Easy Baby,” as it insists that his lady is “the only one” despite his full schedule and the fact that she’s long gone. The tempo quickens dramatically for the follow-up, “Come on Home,” in which he admits he’s been “a bad little boy” and been out all night long, leaving her to cry all alone.

The pace drops off again for familiar Casey Bill Weldon tune “Move to the Outskirts of Town” then picks up for Jay McShann’s “Keep Your Hands Off Her” before Bob launches into his own number, “Something Strange,” a harp-fueled pleaser that wonders why his lady won’t open the door when he visits or calls. Maca’s guitar is featured on a reworking of Parker’s “Stranded in St. Louis” before a percussive cover of Eugene Church’s 1956 chart-topper, “Pretty Girls (Everywhere).” The uptempo originals “Talk to Me Mama” and “That’s My Name” bookend Big Bill Broonzy’s “Just a Dream” to bring the disc to a close.

If you like old-school blues, it doesn’t get better than this. Bob Stroger ages like fine wine. Here’s hoping another album’s in the offing soon!

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 – 6 of 6 

imageBig Al & the Heavyweights – Love One Another

VizzTone Label Group VT-BA-01

14 songs – 60 minutes

www.bigal.net

One of the hardest working and most beloved bands in America, percussionist Big Al Lauro and his Heavyweights reunite with former bandmate Jason Ricci and team with North Mississippi Allstar Luther Dickinson as they deliver an hour-long, all-original set of tunes that intersperse positive themes with others that look at the underside of love and life in the modern world.

Once known as the Unknown Blues Band, the Heavyweights came into being in 1996 when Lauro and future Govt. Mule and Allman Brothers guitarist Warren Haynes were bandmates in David Allen Coe’s touring band and joined forces with Sweethearts of the Rodeo keyboard player Rick Gergen as a side project. Based out of New Orleans, their lineup has changed multiple times through the years, but one thing remains consistent: their ability to deliver the goods every time they take the stage.

The current iteration of the Heavyweights features Marcel Anton on guitar and lead vocals alongside Louisiana Music Hall of Fame keyboard player Wayne Lohr and bassist Mark Parsons, both of whom sing, too. This is the seventh album in their catalog, mixing blues, country and a heaping helping of Big Easy funk.

Recorded at Suite Mix Studios in Slidell, La., the lineup’s augmented with Ricci on harp, Dickinson on guitar along with Tom Larson on percussion, Gina Forsyth on fiddle and Dana Abbott on backing vocals. It was co-produced by the band in association with George Curreau, best known for his work with the Funky Meters.

The title cut, “Love One Another,” opens the action featuring Ricci and insisting that folks have to work together to overcome adversity or else we’re doomed to failure, laying down a swamp-blues foundation for what’s ahead. aided by red-hot harp runs from Ricci. Lohr’s work on the 88s and Anton’s fretwork shine in “I Need a Fix,” a driving, straight-ahead shuffle that describes someone hooked on love, but in desperate need of a hook-up.

The Southern rocker “Sweet Louise” is up next and pays tribute to a “big tease,” a fiery red auto that frequently leaves the owner standing at the side of the road – a feeling that evaporates every time he sits behind the wheel. The funk kicks in for the percussive “Wild Tchoupitoulas,” which describes a lady born on the bayou who’s looking for a fight before things slow down dramatically for “Guardian Angel,” an unhurried plea for the heavenly spirit to lend a hand in fixing a troubled romance.

Things heat up again for “It’s Alright with Me,” an uptempo number about a heaven-sent blonde with emerald eyes whose smile wants you make to stop and stare. In this one, the man has made his move, knowing he could “make you happy or make you blue,” but can accept her decision whatever it might be. It gives way to another rocker, “Stop This Messing Around,” which advises a lover who’s packed to leave to work together for a joyful life to share.

Relationship issues continue in “What Can I Say” – this time the lady’s been unfaithful – and the haunting “I’m Your Man” – in which the woman has a major drug problem and her guy insists he’s got to take a stand to help save her life – before the funk kicks in and the man describes himself as “Too Cold” because it’ll take a while before he’ll settle into a relationship.

The music sweetens but the clouds remain for “Hurricane,” which describes the onslaughts that regularly inundate the Gulf Coast, before “Everybody Needs Somebody” wonders why don’t folks hate less and love more to get along. Two more numbers – the dark “Underground” and the uplifting and spirited “Zydeco Love” – bring the disc to an interesting close.

Without a doubt, this is the most eclectic album the Heavyweights have released in their long history. There’s plenty to like here despite the overall sense of foreboding that permeates several of the songs.

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.


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