Issue 16-12 March 24, 2022


Cover photo © Bob Steshetz/Bob by Request 2022

 In This Issue 

Mark Thompson has our feature interview with Blues legend John Mayall. We have six Blues reviews for you this week including a book about Memphis by Robert A. Lanier plus new music from Doc Lou & The Roosters, Bob Wolfman, Betty Padgett, Gov’t Mule and Mike Zito. Scroll down and check it out!

 From The Editor’s Desk 


Hey Blues Fans,

The 2022 Blues Blast Music Awards submissions are now open until May 31st, 2022. Like last year all submissions must be digital.

Albums released between June 1, 2021 and May 31st, 2022 are eligible. Be sure to check out the 10 new nomination categories we added for this years awards.

One new category that we are excited about is Producer of the Year. We are not aware of any other Blues awards series that recognize the work and creativity of the album producer. The Producer is often as important as the players on the recording in determining the final sound of the recording.  We think Producers need a little love too!!

Complete information on submitting your music to the Blues Blast Music Awards is at:

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

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 Featured Interview – John Mayall 

imageIt seems a bit hard to believe, but after 65 years, John Mayall is about to play the last two live shows of his illustrious career, the last one scheduled for March 26 at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, California. Given that the blues legend is 88 years old, retirement certainly seems appropriate.

But Mayall has never been one to follow in the footsteps of others. Throughout his career he has ventured down different paths, explored different musical approaches, and changed band line-ups in a constant quest to challenge himself and those around him to make beautiful music. The fact that he has been able to remain relevant for so long makes it hard to imagine that the moment has finally arrived for the page to turn to a different chapter in an amazing story.

Whether it was his early work that featured the magnificent guitar work of Eric Clapton and Peter Green, or his shape-shifting efforts from 1969 into the following decade, Mayall has been in the spotlight with his lead vocals, harmonica, keyboard and rhythm guitar playing. His decision to switch to an acoustic sound opened up a world of possibilities as heard on his 1969 release, The Turning Point, which featured his harmonica workout “Room To Move,” long a staple on FM radio. Several years later he cut another live album, Jazz Blues Fusion, this time featuring stellar accompaniment from players like saxophonist Ernie Watts and trumpeter Blue Mitchell, who were well-versed in improvisational music-making.

While many listeners were stunned by those dramatic shifts, for Mayall they were just a natural part of his musical evolution.

“Those songs were featuring jazz players that I really admired so their work is very well featured on the albums that they play on. It was good to be able to explore some of my jazz roots with that band. The Turning Point was an experimental thing to do it without a drummer, so it was a very interesting time to create something that had rhythm and yet didn’t have a drummer. After all the versions of the Bluesbreakers with the great musicians that had come before, I was into doing something different rather than repeating myself. They were all different explorations as far as I was concerned and hopefully the people would follow along with it.”

One quick look at the roster of musicians who have backed him over the years makes it clear that he is a superb assessor of musical talent. The list of guitar players after Clapton and Green includes Mick Taylor, Harvey Mandel, Freddy Robinson, Walter Trout, Coco Montoya, Buddy Whittington, and Rocky Athas. Key contributors in the rhythm section have included John McVie and Larry Taylor on bass, and Keef Hartley on drums.

Asked about the criteria that form the basis for his selection process, Mayall was quite clear on what items top the list.

“I think the important thing is their individuality. I choose musicians for what sets them apart from other instrumentalists, their character. We’re on the road all the time and we’re always exploring new things, so any guitarist or other musician I pick is someone I want to have featured. I enjoy playing music and I want to hear what they bring to the table and that’s always a thrill, so I choose musicians that I admire and that bring something different and new to the piece of music.”

Greg Rzab certainly appreciates being one of the musicians that caught Mayall’s ear. With two different stints playing bass in the band, Rzab is experiencing a range of conflicting emotions as the final live show looms on the horizon. He had been playing with Buddy Guy when Mayall approached him about making a change as he told us.

“I first met John in 1987 in Tokyo while on tour with Buddy and Junior Wells, which was the start of our friendship. He would frequently call me to ask if I would join his band. But Buddy’s thing was taking off, so I would always decline the offer. When I finally left Buddy, I got a call from John about a week later, asking me if I was ready to accept his offer, which I did. When I was nine years old, I dragged my mother to the local record store to buy The Turning Point and Blues From Laurel Canyon albums. So one of my proudest accomplishments is that I will forever be a member of the Bluesbreakers.

image“I played with John for several years, then got a call to audition for Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin fame. You can’t turn down an opportunity like that, so I auditioned, and got the gig! We were on tour in Glasgow when I told John that I was leaving the band. He was like, well, I hate to lose you but Jimmy Page, what are you going to do! After some time with Jimmy, I ended up playing with the Black Crowes, and then Gov’t Mule. Once that all wrapped up, somehow John found out again, and asked me to please come back to his band. That is what I have been doing for the last 14 years.”

When asked what it is about his approach to playing bass that his bandleader finds so appealing, Rzab doesn’t need much time to answer. “Almost every night after a show, John will tell me how much he loves the way I play, the creativeness and my improvisational skills. He also appreciates how we play together, the inter-connectedness of the sound. We bounce ideas off of each other. He has always told me that I am a fabulous bass player. That is a very precious thing.”

Getting that kind of support from one of his idols eliminated much of pressure that any musician might feel from playing with a blues legend. Rzab also loves how Mayall constantly strives to keep the music fresh.

Looking back, Rzab finds plenty to be thankful for.

“First, being on stage with him as he sings “Walking On Sunset,” his vocal phrasing, takes me back to when I was nine years old. There have been so many great shows around the world, like playing in Romania to 3,000 adoring John Mayall fans. I will miss getting on the bus with him, like our first tour where we played 54 shows in 56 days, including 31 shows in a row without a day off! I loved being in that zone. It has been very special, so the thought of it ending is very bittersweet.”

One special memory involves a show in Niagara Falls, where the mayor gave Mayall a key to the city, an honor that had only been bestowed on one other person, Dan Aykroyd. It was a gold key housed in a small black velvet-lined box.

As Rzab recalls, “The next morning at breakfast, John handed me this little case with the key inside, which John had autographed. I told him I couldn’t take it. But he insisted, saying he wanted me to have the key because he knew that it would mean something to me. He gave me the key to Niagara Falls, which now hangs on the wall of my music room. John is a very humble and unassuming human being. Awards and accolades weren’t important to him, only the music being played on any given night.”

Drummer Jay Davenport has been a vital part of the rhythm section with Rzab for the last fourteen years. He cut cut his teeth playing in Chicago blues clubs, backing artists like Sugar Blue, Dion Payton, Jimmy Johnson, and guitarist Melvin Taylor, where he was teamed with Rzab. Once the bass player got the call from Mayall, good fortune came the drummer’s way.

“John was putting together a new band in 2008, which is why he called Greg. He wanted Greg to pick a drummer that he was comfortable with, because John wanted a really tight rhythm section. That’s how that came about. How I have remained there this long is the real mystery! At the time I was working as a consultant in application development in the computer field, playing gigs on the weekend. It was a hard decision to leave that and go out on the road. I never looked back.

“At that time Chicago blues were loud and long, lots of solos, lots of chops. The best musicians in the city were playing blues because it was the best paying gig at the time. Over the years, I have learned that the more I tone it down, the more people notice the drums. The key is getting everybody in the band to listen, and having a willingness to support each other at all times. So my job in the Mayall band might be to keep the 2 & 4 beats, or it might be to announce a change, do something flashy, or even lay out and do nothing at all. When we did the trio thing with John and Greg, it was almost an ecosystem with a heart, the brain, and a cardiovascular system. That is what I have been honing in on since I got here.”

imageEven after playing with the the Dells, a famous Chicago vocal group, Davenport found himself to be frequently tongue tied when he was around Mayall for most of the first year in the band. It took awhile before he felt like something other than the “idiot” drummer.

“Once I broke through to where he was a friend more than an employer, things got really easy and a lot of fun. It was nice not having to worry about having a heart attack every time I came around him. He is so quiet, so you wonder if he is unapproachable, or just quiet. Once I figured it out, we developed a great relationship. Then it was fun to watch other people struggle with the same thing.”

Their time together has given the drummer a valuable insight into why Mayall has been able to sustain high standards throughout his career.

“He feels privileged to have had such a wonderful life playing the music he loves. Some people feel they have a gift, therefore they are owed something. With John, it is more that you have this gift, so now what are you going to do to deserve it. You owe back to the musicians you are playing with, to the audience, to crews that make the show go on. It sets him apart from a large majority of people that I have met in this business.”

Davenport still marvels at the energy Mayall has had over the years, like the time the then 83 year old came out of a truck stop with a Razor scooter, taking off to the astonishment of his band.

Asked for some final thoughts on the “boss,” Davenport is clear on his assessment of the Mayall legacy.

“Sooner or later, he should be voted in to the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in recognition for his contributions to American music. The British stuff is what it is. John brought the blues to a place where it could be accepted for what it is, not as race music, just the blues. He paved the way for countless artists. We once met Geddy Lee of Rush in an airport. Geddy said that when they got together, they just wanted to be the Bluesbreakers. John deserves a place with all of the greats of the British invasion.”

Throughout his career Mayall has been a prolific songwriter. Some might think that after all these years, he has said all there is to be said. But the Mayall the songwriter is up to the challenge of creating vibrant music.

“The music usually comes first, or the subject and the music come at the same time, but when you write a song it has to have a certain flavor to it and that’s where you start from and find the subject. Once you have the subject matter that usually takes the lead and the lyrics will follow, which supplies enough for the verses that you’re going to put together. I write songs about a specific subject, like things that are going on in the world or in my life and hopefully people listen to that and connect up with it. When I put an album together I want to make sure that each track has a different strength to it and one track isn’t the same as another. All the songs whether I write them, or they’re by other people, the main thing is that they should have their own identity.

“I just do what’s natural to me. You write a song and it’s about a certain subject that you want to explore through music. I don’t think that there’s anything really special about that. I want to make sure that the subject of the song is represented in the style of music and the actual playing.

“I’ve grown up listening to the earlier singers and instrumentalists and enjoyed their work and it’s always been the same that everyone has their own character. To this day I enjoy listening to musicians from all ages.”

Being a multi-instrumentalist provides choices for a variety of sonic textures, which he has used effectively in the last few decades with smaller band formats. “I don’t really have a favorite instrument.

They all have a different character. The piano of course has the widest range of notes that you can play together. Maybe the piano as it has the most variety, but all of the instruments I play are in charge of expressing certain feelings of mine.”

It has been the job of producer Eric Cone to help Mayall capture his music on the eight recordings they have collaborated on since 2014, including the latest, The Sun Is Shining Down. The two met on a session for the Full Circle project Corne was working on with Walter Trout. Mayall was a guest on the album, the duo laying down a one take performance of the album’s opening track “She Takes More Than She Gives.” Corne continues the story.

image“We really bonded on a second Trout project, The Blues Came Callin’. Knowing that John was coming in, and that veteran musicians are often ready to go when they walk into the studio, I made sure that I had the levels set for the sound on the piano. John walked into the live room, Walter asked him what he thought about doing a boogie. John didn’t say a word, just sat down and started playing while I ran to hit the record button.

“After he was done, Walter told him it was an amazing performance, and then asked if John would like to try again with the band. Mayall replied no, I could never do that again. Didn’t you get it, at which point everyone turned to look at me. I was glad that I could give them the thumbs up! Then John and I listened to the track. He had a piece of paper to take notes on which measures he wanted me to keep, and which ones he wanted removed. Then I added the band with a real old school sound. Shortly after that I got a call from John’s manager saying that John was interested in me doing his next record. That ended up being the album A Special Life, and we have been working together ever since.”

When Mayall was considering doing a self-release as his record deal had expired, Corne offered to take at look at the plan for the release and offer input. His label, Forty Below Records, was relatively new with several albums on the market.

“I didn’t think they had a very robust plan. So I made an offer to John to put the album out on my label, and I wouldn’t take any money, just do my best to make the project successful. John said ok. It all went well, and that grew into John signing with Forty Below. We have done five studio albums, a live trio record, and released two volumes of live recordings from 1967 with the original line-up of Fleetwood Mac.

“It has been a good run for eight years. Not a bad output for someone who had just turned 80 years old just before our first release together.”

Asked about his relationship with Corne, it is clear that Mayall values the skills Corne brings to each project.

“We’ve worked together for a long time and it’s always been a very fruitful relationship. He manages to capture and enhance the music that I play. It’s difficult to say what it is that makes that possible, but he’s a good listener and he’s a good technician and I enjoy working with him”

Corne relishes the education he has acquired working with Mayall. He knows to be prepared, to be ready to strike when the iron is hot, as Mayall is not fond of doing countless takes of a given song, in keeping of his desire to keep things fresh.

When it comes to favorite memories, there are two that stand out for the producer.

“We were at Studio 606, the Foo Fighters Studio, recording for the Nobody Told Me album. Later at night, John did the piano for the title track. I remember sitting there with my feet up on the console, listening to him play, thinking here I am as John Mayall lays down a classic performance, my private audience with a legend. How lucky am I!

“The other huge one was recording two tracks with Joe Walsh, seeing how Joe revered John, which took me back a bit. People have so much respect and admiration for John.”

Joining Mayall’s band in 2018, Carolyn Wonderland is the latest addition to the formidable legacy of guitar players. A road-tested veteran from Texas with a career going back three decades, she was the lead singer fronting the Imperial Monkeys before striking out under her own name twenty years ago.

She had run into Mayall over the years when they were booked on the same festivals. She also got to know Greg Rzab when she did a string of shows with Buddy Guy, while Rzab was in his band. Some years later, while on a music cruise, they exchanged phone numbers. That connection paid dividends in 2017.

image“Greg called to ask if I would be interested in playing guitar on a couple of songs as a guest. I said sure, love to give it a try, and you won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t like what I play. I was in Woodstock when John got on the phone and invited me to play with the band for a bit. I was shocked, but managed to say sure, love to! I had just paid my respects at Levon Helm’s grave. I guess Woodstock has a kind of magic pull like that.

“So he sent me about 80 songs to learn, some of them from soundboard recordings with a lot of Peter Green. They were the songs he would pull from for the shows on the tour. Our first show was at the 2018 New Orleans Jazzfest that year. It was, hello John, and off we went. I had a couple months to listen and chart the songs. I still have my book of charts just in case.”

Wonderland became another band member who marveled at Mayall’s stamina on the road.

“There was one tour of Europe where we did 50 shows in 60 days in 19 countries. I asked John if he ever wanted to take a day off to visit the Louvre Museum or some place like the Colosseum. You could hear his eyes rolling around as he replied, no, love, I just want to play music. I have seen all that. The joy that he has when playing is palpable as soon as he opens his mouth.

“I don’t know how he does it. For me, after three or four shows in a row, I have to hush my mouth or I will lose my voice, because I holler a lot. But John is a real singer. What he does is quite beautiful. But I don’t know how he does it. I am about half his age, and that tour was hard. I felt like my fingers were falling off at one point!

“John is incredibly generous with his kindness and laughter, and also in giving his band space to express themselves. What you do is what you do, and he doesn’t want to hear it the same way twice. At times, you think your solo is done but he pushes you to get to something else. He gives everyone a chance to shine, throws you into the fire, which is why a lot of musicians leave his band playing a higher level than when they started with him.”

The most vivid memory of Wonderland’s time with Mayall occurred in Paris in 2019. Their show was at the Bataclan Theatre, site of a deadly 2015 terrorist attack. The band members weren’t sure if Mayall knew about the history of the venue.

“We don’t always keep up with the news while on the road. That space had seen such violence, and we wanted to reclaim it for the music and for joy, to overcome the hatred of that night. You could still see bullet holes in the frescoes on the walls. It was very heavy. We got up to play that night without saying anything to John. During the show, he did his song “One Life To Live,” which is about his experience serving in Korea. The lyrics lent itself perfectly to the room and the people who were there that night. He got a tear-filled standing ovation, and it hit me hard in my heart. It was something to watch him wield such a healing power in a song to people in another country. It was beautiful.”

While Father Time may be slowing Mayall down, his latest release serves notice that the legend still has the power to make compelling music. It has been that way for decades. Few musicians of any genre have been able to stay musically relevant for as long as Mayall has. The roots, splinters, and branches from his musical tree have impacted blues, and modern music, time and again. And while his humble nature has no need for awards and accolades, he deserve every bit of recognition that comes his way.

Asked about career highlights, Mayall offered this assessment:

“I don’t really have any favorites. I’ve just enjoyed playing with different people because of what they bring to the palette. I’ve have been very lucky that people enjoyed the music I’ve played, so all of my memories have a special place.”

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

imageRobert A. Lanier – Memphis In The Jazz Age

The History Press

160 Pages Softcover edition

Despite the title, this book does not delve into the musical history of Memphis, one of the top musical cities in our country. What the author does provide is, at times, a fascinating study of the political and social issues that impacted the city at a critical juncture, laying the groundwork for conditions that ultimately sparked the explosion of music that followed several decades later.

A retired judge, Robert A Lanier originally wrote the book in 1978, well before the advent of the internet. That meant he needed to comb through old newspapers, magazines, and microfiche to collect information and statistics that are utilized throughout the book. Also included are forty-plus B&W photos depicting Memphis landmarks in the 1920s as well as locals who figure prominently in the narrative.

During the decade under consideration, Memphis was a growing metropolis. The city’s medical facilities had become the best in the region, while business interests, spurred on by rising cotton prices, reached record levels by mid-decade. The city also battled a high murder rate in addition to a surprising number of deaths due to automobile accidents. The population was rapidly growing as many black Americans moved to the city in search of better opportunities. Another element that affected a number of aspects of life was the federal Prohibition law and it’s enforcement.

The central figure in Lanier’s narrative is Edward Hull “Boss” Crump, Jr, who served as mayor of the city from 1910-1915. After that, Crump set out to build a political machine while doing his best to stay out of the limelight. He proved to be a master at politics, quickly gaining a level of power that allowed him to be the power broker of the city, and a fair amount of Tennessee, for several decades.

As Lanier points out, Crump was not opposed to reaching out to black voters, who faced a variety of roadblocks to casting a ballot, including poll taxes and literacy tests. Crump and his party would work to get the voters registered, then pay the poll tax to remove that barrier. In 1923, Crump backed the mayoral campaign of J. Rowlett Paine in order to defeat a ticket from the resurgent Ku Klux Klan. The Klan managed to only win one judgeship, a defeat that severely diminished their political future.

The book details the various pieces of Crump’s machine, and the methods he used to maintain power. He handpicked candidates for many key city and county positions, then worked his magic to get them elected. Once in office, there was no doubt who they owed allegiance to. Crump also made a point of getting himself elected multiple times as a representative to the Democratic National Convention, a role that extended his influence to the national political sphere.

One chapter delves into the high murder rate in Memphis during the first half of the decade. Another chapter chronicles the career of Clarence Saunders, becoming a millionaire heading the Piggly-Wiggly chain of grocery stores. Another section, entitle “The Silent Minority,” examines the impact of black voters on city elections, which often found less than half of the eligible voters casting a ballot. Because of his ability to get his voters to the polls, Crump steadily increased his influence unabated.

Lanier offers a solid portrayal of a time of major growth in the city, and the people who had profound influence over the political and economic spheres. Their leadership laid that the groundwork for an environment that several decades in the future fostered a host of musical expressions that profoundly changed modern music forever.

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 – 2 of 6 

imageDoc Lou & The Roosters – Back To Louisiana

Self-Release – 2021

10 tracks; 37 minutes

Harp player, vocalist and front-man for the band, Doc Lou lived in the USA for several years before returning to his native France where he now lives in the Aude region and established this trio with guitarist Jeff Hug and drummer Michel Geronimo, both experienced musicians. Lou handles lead vocals and harp, plus acoustic guitar on three tracks, Jeff plays electric and slide, acoustic on six tracks and provides backing vocals, as does drummer/percussionist Michel. Recording engineer Eric Payan plays organ on one song. All the material was written by Doc Lou.

Opener “But One Thing” blends zydeco and Rock n’ Roll as Lou makes his harp sound like an accordeon, not a surprise, given the title of the album! Lou sings clearly with just a soupçon of French accent and the title track comes next, starting with some good harp work over a loping shuffle as Lou reminisces about what he misses in the French Quarter. Echoey guitar gives “In The Wood” a slightly eerie feel, a feel reflected in the lyrics which reference graveyards; lots of good guitar work on this one to admire. “Can’t Quit You” is a short track with a stop/start rhythm, slide guitar and all three guys joining in on the chorus while the next cut has Lou hitting some piercing harp tones on a mid-paced tune with minimal lyrics which do not go a lot further than the title, “C’mon Hey Yeah”. “Rock Groove Shake” does not do a great deal more than its predecessor lyrically, but fairly rockets along with Lou’s harp to the fore. Percussion and slide introduce “Bye Bye Baby”, Lou still in love but having to leave the relationship because she is placing limits on things like his drinking!

The longest track is “Late At Night”, a slow number which makes Lou’s accent more obvious, but the addition of Eric’s organ adds an extra dimension as it gradually takes over the tune after Lou has had his say on harp. Immediately after comes “Missing You”, another strong track with a real foot-tapping rhythm and some great Rn’R guitar from Jeff – probably this reviewer’s pick track on the album. The album closes with the country ballad “Love & Light” which seems a little out of sync with the rest of the album.

Overall this is another of those albums that makes you realise just how far the influence of American music has spread. Not always consistent, but several good tracks and enough blues DNA to make it of interest to Blues Blast readers.

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 

imageBob Wolfman – Tribute To A Friend

Self-Release – 2021

11 tracks; 41 minutes

Bob Wolfman is a guitar player and music educator who has played around the Boston area for many years. When he was 15 he had a chance encounter with Jimi Hendrix that changed his life. After Jimi’s untimely death, Bob swore that he would one day record a tribute to a man who was a major influence on his guitar playing, as well as a friend. Fast forward to 2020 and Bob finally achieved that goal, working with a fellow Hendrix devotee, Jon Butcher, who played second guitar, some bass and provided backing vocals, as well as producing the album. With keyboard player Bruce Mattson, drummer Barry Lit and a series of bass players (Mark Egan, Ronnie Belben, Wolf Ginandes), Bob played guitar and handled the vocals on eight Hendrix tunes, one that Hendrix covered and two originals, both of which fit well with the Hendrix-inspired material. Sonny Landreth sits in on the two originals.

Bob selected tunes from the Hendrix canon which are perhaps less frequently heard, and that is also a plus for the album; after all, do we really need yet another cover of “Voodoo Child” or “Little Wing”? Bob’s vocals are very clear and, in fact, make you realise what an interesting lyricist Hendrix was. All the Hendrix covers remain close to the originals and none run to excessive length, the twin guitars allowing Bob and Jon to reproduce what on Hendrix’s original albums was courtesy of a lot of multi-tracking. Opener “Gypsy Woman” races out of the traps with the guitars in heavy conversation, driven by the drums. According to Bob, “Freedom” has movements, like a classical composition, and when you hear Bob’s version it makes you wonder why the song is not covered more frequently; the coda is terrific. “Freedom” is followed by “Castles Made Of Sand”, the quiet guitar opening and fascinating lyrics making a good contrast. Another great Hendrix rocker, “Dolly Dagger”, follows, again making you reflect on why that one does not appear more frequently in the Hendrix covers; the thick guitar chords and swirling keys at the heart of the original are well reproduced. The spaced-out lyrics of “Spanish Castle Magic” take you right back to the late 60’s when things were often described as “groovy” before the relatively obscure rocker “You Got Me Floating”. “Angel” was the centrepiece of Hendrix’s The Cry Of Love album, issued posthumously just after his death, a beautiful ballad that used to be covered (by Rod Stewart, for instance) but is no longer often heard; Bob does a very good version of the song.

“Come On (Let The Good Times Roll)” is a 1942 song by Fleecie Moore and Sam Theard which Hendrix knew from Earl King’s version; he often played it live and a version also appears on Electric Ladyland. The two originals both fit in with the Hendrix-themed album: “Parachute” is an instrumental dedicated to Bob’s late nephew Jeffrey, the title could be interpreted as wishing safe landings to Jeffrey but also tips a hat towards Hendrix’s service in the 101st Airborne; “Moon Candy” has the sort of lyrics that Jimi might have written in his prime, full of references to “trips down the rabbit hole” and trying out the exotic-sounding title product. Both tracks involve Sonny Landreth’s spectacular slide playing. Bob returns to Hendrix to end the album, the choice being “One Rainy Wish”.

Opening the envelope for review and seeing a tribute to Hendrix one feared the worst, but that was wrong, as Bob has produced a very sympathetic treatment of some of Hendrix’s less familiar songs. The best tribute albums make you want to go back to the originals and that was in my own mind after listening to Bob’s heartfelt tribute – surely a mark of success for this project.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 6 

imageBetty Padgett – Ridin’ with the Blues

Meia Publishing

10 songs – 38 minutes

A vocalist who grew up in the church and first tasted success in the disco era, Betty Padgett has been working tirelessly in the South Florida blues scene since the early ‘70s, and returns to the spotlight with this set, a welcome return to the studio after an eight-year absence.

Shortly after high school, she became enamored with guitarist Joey Gilmore and his band, the T.C.B. Express, auditioned as their featured singer and spending 17 years in their lineup, during which Joey captured band-of-the-year honors at the 2006 International Blues Challenge.

A New Jersey native who moved to Florida in sixth grade, Betty mixes blues, soul, gospel and funk into her act. She debuted as a recording artist in 1974 with the 45-rpm “My Eyes Adore You/Love Forever” on Weed Beat following it up with the 12-in. single “Sugar Daddy” on Ultra Records in 1977, a regional hit that eventually was picked up by Pepsi and provided the soundtrack for a regional commercial.

That tune anchored Padgett’s eponymous first LP on the Luv n’ Haight imprint two years later. This is the sixth album in her catalog and the first since I Didn’t Take Your Man (You Gave Him to Me) on Music Access in 2013. This disc was released on the cusp of Betty becoming the first woman of color to capture the top prize in the South Florida Blues Society IBC competition. She hopes to follow in Gilmore’s footsteps when the COVID-delayed big event takes place in Memphis this May.

Joey is one of three top-notch guitarists whose licks are featured on this one along with two other fret masters she works with locally: Skip Turner and the exceptionally gifted Bobby Nathan, a native New Yorker who worked behind dozens of national talents, served as the band leader at Max’s Kansas City and owned and operated Unique Recording Studios — where hip-hop was born – for decades. The remainder of the lineup as well as song credits are absence from the barebones album sleeve.

“Old School Blues” lopes out of the gate with a heavy two-four beat before Betty pleasantly weathered mid-range voice urges listeners to party with her with the Watutsi, Mashed Potato, Jerk and more on the dance floor. It flows into medium-paced shuffle, “I Don’t Want Nobody,” a misleading title because Padgett only feels that way when the man “don’t want me.”

The music takes on a Memphis feel for the unhurried “Call Me.” Dealing with unrequited love, it describes a man who seems unable to recognize the passion in the lady’s look each time they meet or the electricity that courses from her head to her feet. A burning six-string run with keyboard and harp accompaniment open “Cross Roads” in which Padgett finds herself at a turning point after her man walks out the door before the action heats up and her mood changes with “He’s My Man” as Betty confronts another woman who doesn’t recognize that the guy she’s hitting on isn’t showing interest but is just being polite.

“Everybody Wanna Dance” serves up a tip of the hat for folks who like to move and groove before Padgett announces she’s “Looking for a Good Man” who’s more interested than making love – “it’s all about me and you.” Up next, the timbre changes dramatically for the minor-key pleaser, “All My Sick Days,” which finds Betty checking her makeup after a night of romance and realizing she’s so smitten with the guy that he’s going to make her use up all her paid days off from her job.

“Let Me Come Back Home,” an unhurried, guitar-driven ballad, finds Padgett regretful after straying with another guy before “Chess Records” longs for the days when the Windy City label dominated the airwaves and serves up tributes to Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry, Etta James and more to bring the disc to a close.

The skintight rhythms don’t change much from one song to the next and the messages are familiar, but if you’re a fan of old-school blues, there’s a lot to like with this one.

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 – 5 of 6 

imageGov’t Mule – Heavy Load Blues

Fantasy Recordings

13 tracks

I guess it was inevitable that Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule would want to make a blues album and I certainly am glad they did. Haynes and the band just did what came naturally to them and let the blues flow out of them. Recorded live in the studio, this album really has a live and fresh feeling to the performances. There is an extended version with 7 more tracks; the shorter version was sent out for review here.

Gov’t Mule is Warren Haynes on guitars and vocals, Matt Abs on drums, Danny Louis on keys, guitar and backing vocals, and Jorgen Carlsson on bass. The first cut has a guest harp player and the second a guest horn section of Pam Fleming on trumpet, Jenny Hill on tenor sax and Buford O’Sullivan on trombone.

The album starts with a rousing rendition of Elmore James’ “Blues Before Sunrise” with all the pomp and circumstance of the original and more. Haynes growls out the vocals, the slide guitar wails and the added harp by Hook Herrera is super. In my mind, Haynes does not need to use vocal effects, but many like them and it is cool. They follow that with an original slow blues entitled “Hole In My Soul” with some thoughtful guitar and vocals and the horn section doing an outstanding job with their work, too. “Wake Up Dead” follows, another fine original tune. The organ plays a big roll and Haynes again shines on guitar and vocals. This one’s a midtempo blues rocker with some stinging guitar work and stellar organ. Haynes’ “Love Is A Mean Old World” is next, with Haynes adding resonator with his electric guitar. A little piano here and there and soloing nicely rounds this riving and heavy hill country-esque cut. The classic Junior Wells tune “Snatch It Back and Hold It” gets a fine cover with Haynes one again doing yeoman’s work with his axe, stretching this one out to almost 8 minutes with an added spontaneous jam “Hold It Back” in the middle of the cut. There’s a pretty underlying bass groove and great organ soloing and support to boot here. Up next is “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City,” a soulful, slow blues made famous by Bobby Bland. Haynes has some delicious grit in his vocals here as he does another fine job making covers his own. “(Brother Bill) Last Clean Shirt” is an old Lieber and Stoller tune, first done in 1964 by The Honeyman and covered by the likes of T-Bone Walker, The Animals, James Harman and so many more. This one is traditional slow blues with some fantastic guitar work and good vocals.

“Make It Rain” is a Tom Waits cover and Haynes give us his growling and heavy take on it; it’s quite somber, almost a little eerie and well done! The title track “Heavy Load” comes next and Warren again breaks out his resonator for this acoustic solo effort as he gives us front porch Mule blues to savor and enjoy. They continue after that with “Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home” is another classic. Haynes takes this one from Johnny Adams and the others who followed and give it his own spin with a bluesy, funky, rocking twang to it. Haynes’ own “If Heartaches Were Nickels” follows that, a slow and pretty blues ballad. Warren turns things down a few notches to deliver this down and interesting cut with great feeling. He punctuates his vocals with guitar nicely and the organ and guitar solos flesh this one out sweetly. Howlin’ Wolf’s “I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline” is next, is a big and driving piece where Haynes howls out the lead. Organ and guitar are huge here and this one’s a dramatic cover for sure as Mule stretches this out to over 9 minutes in their fine jam band manner. The last song is a final original tune called “Black Horizon.” Haynes get his resonator out one last time for a mostly solo effort with some added clapping and vocal harmonies. It’s another great, traditional blues cut and Haynes excels once again.

Rockers returning to the blues is nothing new, but we know Warren Haynes can play and sing the blues well just based on his work with in the past the Allman Brothers. Here we get Warren Haynes and his jam band Gov’t Mule doing the blues as only they can. It’s a great album and they showcase their amazing skills in every tune. I really enjoyed this one and highly recommend it. You won’t be disappointed!

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.

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6 

imageMike Zito – Blues for the Southside

Gulf Coast Records

17 songs, 1 hour and 43 minutes

Many professional working class musicians (meaning not the 1% Taylor Swifts or Beyonces) have 2 modes: road dog and studio rat. The normal cycle is to record a record, tour on the record for 2-5 years, repeat. For a music that is elegantly simple and monolithic at its core, the Blues offers the musician a clear and straightforward canvas on which to create and many musicians are singular in their output often capturing raw in the moment energy both in live performance and recorded production. More road dog than studio rat. But, some Blues artists take a page from the record production milestones of the 60’s and 70’s when the Beatles (and many others) began to use the recording studio as the canvas; channeling the studio rat. Mike Zito is one of these musicians. A daredevil recording artist and producer, Zito has distinguished himself over the last few years as the alt-Blues forerunner releasing deep complex studio pieces such as Albert Castiglia’s 2019 Masterpiece and his own 2021 Resurrection. To balance his experimentation Zito has offered his fans in Blues for the Southside a double disc, high flying straight ahead Blues love letter.

Mike Zito is a superb Bluesman and his live performance is electrifying. Blues for the Southside is his 3rd live album and far and away his most satisfying. Recorded in his hometown of St. Louis at the Old Rock House the day after Thanksgiving 2021, Southside is a one night only document of Zito and his exceptional band letting loose after the long dry spell of the Covid lock down. Matthew Johnson on drums, Texas legend Lewis Stephens on piano and organ and Doug Byrkit on bass push and pull with Zito effortlessly moving through some of the most rocking and hard charging pieces from the back catalog. The hometown crowd is up for the post Thanksgiving party; that Friday after turkey day is always a big night out right? Unlike some live albums where the listener feels like a viore peeping from afar, Southside draws the listener into the party and the electricity between performers and audience.

Mike Zito’s guitar genius is on full display. A facile, soulful guitarist, Zito blisters through multiple styles of Blues and Rock, at times brandishing a slide and alternatively crunching deeply with distorted chaos and smoothly floating along. Always distinct, one only needs to hear his cover of the Stevie Ray signature “Texas Flood” to understand Mike’s unique voice. On “Texas Flood” Mike plays the classic SRV riffs but he phrases them differently, he embellishes some and strips bare others. He opens up the repertoire obligatory structure of the song and allows his personal take to come shining through. This is equally true of his impassioned singing. He manipulates Stevie Ray’s signature drawl-ed phrasing. Check out how he returns for the final verse after his extended clinic of a solo. Starting the vocal phrase with a tension filled minor note, Mike completely elevates this well weathered chestnut into something personal and unique.

There are 3 guest guitarists who joined Zito and Co. on stage that night. Labelmates Tony Campanella and Dave Kalz each spar with Zito in double guitar reverie. The stand out performance is when Zito and cosmic genius Eric Gales commune on Jimi’s “Voodoo Chile.” This is not the often covered rocked out “Slight Return” but the earlier sequenced Electric Ladyland slow Blues grind. Mike told Blues Blast in a recent interview that his dear friend Gales was simply attending the show when he was asked to come up and contribute. The impromptu nature of the performance shines through with adventurous loose playing from both masters that rivals the original Hendrix version for creativity and emotion.

Mike Zito is a dynamic, complex and visceral Bluesman. A true road dog, Zito makes the rent by traveling around and proselytizing the good word of the Blues. But Zito is also an adventurous recording artist who at a young age was bit by the studio bug and has ever since been a studio rat. After a number of years of indulging his studio jones, Blues for the Southside is a testament to Mike Zito’s raw live Blues power and his well rounded talent.

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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