Issue 16-15 April 14, 2022

Cover photo © Laura Carbone

 In This Issue 

Mark Thompson has our feature interview with Carolyn Wonderland. We have nine Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Markey Blue Ric Latina Project, Matchbox Bluesmaster Series Set 5, Matchbox Bluesmaster Series Set 6, Trudy Lynn, Diunna Greenleaf, Dionne Bennett, Brandon Tesky, Paul Oscher with Pinetop Perkins & Willie Smith and Sam Moss. Scroll down and check it out!



The Blues Blast Music Awards honor contemporary Blues artists and their recordings.

Artists with major labels and independent artists are eligible. All submissions are digital. No physical CDs needed.

For complete information, click HERE.

 Featured Interview – Carolyn Wonderland 

imageDespite the fact that she has been steadily touring for more than three decades, Carolyn Wonderland often seemed to be flying under the radar of most blues listeners. Blessed with a rich singing voice and a fiery guitar style, one could easily imagine her becoming a regular on the blues festival circuit. She admits to being a bit socially awkward, but anyone who spends time with her will quickly discover that she has a kind, gentle spirit enthused with a passion for helping others. The last few years brought changes that have finally begun to bring her long over-due attention. And it was another musician who got things rolling.

Over the years, the guitarist got to know Greg Rzab, who had been entrenched as the bass player in John Mayall’s band. One day she got a call from Rzab, extending an offer to guest on several tracks for an upcoming album. Then Mayall got on the phone.

“John said, why don’t you come out and play some shows with us for a bit. I met up with John and the guys at the 2018 New Orleans Jazz Fest for our first show together. Spending the last three years with him was a real education. He is all about playing music. He pushes you to do more, and gives each band member a chance to shine. But it is not necessarily a big drum solo where everyone leaves the stage. John wants us to provide ensemble backing during the drum solo.

“Greg Rzab has great sense of humor musically. He will suddenly throw some funny riff in the middle of his stuff, like the theme from The Pink Panther, which will get a giggle out of John, as he waits to see how Greg is going to get out of that and back to the song. It is liberating to be able to play without any preconceived notions as to how the song must be played. We feel what John is doing, and let things happen naturally. That has helped me get rid of a lot of fear with my own stuff.”

Given the lineage of guitar players that have backed Mayall over the decades, a list that includes Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Walter Trout, Coco Montoya and Mick Taylor, one could understand if Wonderland felt pressure to live up that legacy. But she had a coping mechanism.

“ It’s scary, so I just tried real hard not to think about it. He sent me about 80 songs to learn in the beginning. Listening to them, I got hip to J. B. Lenoir, who is one of John’s favorite blues artists. Digging up recordings of people he likes, which is much easier in these digital times, I could see what John found so attractive, and it gave me a chance to learn the head licks. For instance, on “All Your Love,” people want to hear that opening part as Clapton played it, but then you have to walk away from it. I would try to go further into Otis Rush stuff, what would he have done, that spoke to me in the same way. You can’t just copy what people did before. You can allude to the head, then jump off. Otherwise, it tends to sap the joy out of it.”

Growing up in Texas, Wonderland can trace her passion for music back to her mother, who sang and played guitar. She was a big hit with the younger generation.

“Both of my parents were really cool. I got super lucky in the parent department! Mom would play in pizzas places when I was a kid. My first memories of her teaching us music was when she was my Girl Scout leader. Everybody knew her as the “guitar lady”. She would be there at the day camps, teaching us all of the songs. If we were learning “This Land Is Your Land,” we would learn all of the verses, including the ones that the Girl Scout Council didn’t want us to know. Mom was really into music, the lyrics and saying what you mean.”

IMAGEWonderland still has three of her mother’s guitars. One, a late 1930s student model Martin F-hole archtop was found in the trash in Waco, TX covered in nail polish. Her parents refinished it and brought it back to life. A second acoustic Martin, an 00-18 from the early 1940s, was discovered on a front porch in El Paso with flowers planted in the sound hole.

“Mom asked if she could have it, to save it. I’m glad she did because that particular guitar has songs in it. Some instruments do, some don’t. That guitar, when you play it, something is going to happen. In the little hippie group in Houston where I grew up, she was always known as Mama Land. In the years before her passing, she was living with me in Austin. It was cool to be roommates with her, and to have her meet all of my friends, who revered her. They would look after her while I was out on tour. It was very sweet.”

While Wonderland was intrigued by the piano, even as a youngster she realized that it was far easier to move a guitar from place to place. She liked the trumpet as well, but wanted to be able to sing while playing an instrument. And she had her mother as a constant source of inspiration.

“The guitar was the one. It provides endless amounts of mystery. As soon as you think you’ve got something figured out, you discover there is now three other things to figure out. I think about my Mom a lot when I play her guitars.

“She grew up in Waco, which was a smaller town at that point, and she hadn’t experienced snootiness, if not discrimination against women. When she was pregnant with me, she took the Martin, the one that had the flowers, on a plane as she traveled to Houston, a woman obviously pregnant, by herself with a guitar on her back. She had never seen so many dirty looks in her life. My parents were married but Dad wasn’t traveling with her. I guess women do attract that kind of attention.”

Growing up, Wonderland did plenty of singing, especially with her mother. She always enjoyed it, but her real interest lay elsewhere.

“I loved doing back-up singing, and harmonizing was a hoot. When you can join someone, it sounds so much bigger. There was never intention on my part to be a lead singer. My focus was on trying to be a better guitar player, and to learn to play other instruments. Then, in my high school band, our singer chickened out on our very first gig. So I stood up there, totally sucked, but I did it. The more you do it, the less you stink at it. I think I’ve finally found what my voice sounds like. About to be 50 years old and finally figuring out what your voice sounds like!”

The high school band experience taught the guitarist about the important things, like which band members had a driver’s license, or a PA system. There were also practical lessons on what it takes to be a band leader.

“You have to learn auto mechanics, be versed in psychology, and make sure everyone looks after each other. It’s a good training ground, because everyone is going to have a shit day. When they do, you have to be there for them.”

Committed to music, Wonderland kept plowing away for several years until she made the decision to relocate, searching for different opportunities.

IMAGE“It seems like I have been doing the same thing forever. When I moved to Austin, I ended up being homeless, living in my van for a couple of years. I’ve had my own house since 2009, which is pretty awesome to come home to, with a beautiful husband and two cats. Shit, it feels like I won the lottery.

“ The main reason for the move was Doug Sahm, the great Texas musician who lead the Sir Douglas Quintet early in his career. He has always been a hero. We met years ago at the High Sierra festival. I think Doug was out with the Gourds. In the autograph line, I marveled at how he made everyone feel like he was there to see them. He asked me what I was up to. My response was that I think I need to move because it feels like I keep writing the same song over and over.

“He asked where I was thinking of going. I told him Amsterdam, New York, Los Angeles, I don’t know. He said that I should come to Austin, the land of free guitar lessons. He also pointed out that if I changed my mind, I wasn’t far from home. So Doug was the reason I came to Austin. Unfortunately, he passed away the following year, so we didn’t get much time together.

“One time I was at a favorite funky, beer-soaked, amazing dive bar in Amsterdam where the great jazz trumpet player Chet Baker used to have a thing on that stage. It was my first trip overseas. I stopped in on songwriter night because I was trying to get gigs for my band. When my turn came, I started playing Doug Sahm songs. Everybody knew the words and were singing along. I was like, are you fucking kidding me! It felt like home. They even knew the songs from his posthumous release, The Return Of Wayne Douglas.”

Wonderland had a place to stay when she arrived in Austin. But then her landlady developed dementia, and from time to time misplaced the rent checks. The problems started when the landlady’s family had to step in.

“I would write another check, and never bothered to cancel the original ones, figuring it was no big deal. When her family finally stepped in to take over, they found all of my old checks, and deposited them! I was on the road, and suddenly my credit cards didn’t work. I couldn’t buy fuel, pay for rooms. I called the bank, told them they were multiple checks for rent each month, but no one would hear me out. When I got back from the tour, I got a notice giving me two weeks to move out.

“So there I was, $6,000 overdrawn. So I put my stuff in storage, and figured I would live in the van for a bit. Like most people who start off their adventure in homelessness, I planned to save X amount of dollars over three to six months to have the down payment for an apartment. What I didn’t realize, and you don’t know until you experience it, is that it is damn expensive to be poor. Everything costs more money. That free glass of water you get out of your tap, not so free any more. The opportunity to take a shower or go to the bathroom – not free any more.

“It would get weird and lonely. I would try to stretch tours out an extra day or two so that I could have a hotel room for myself. Once I dropped off the last band member, I would have empty nest syndrome. You don’t understand what it is like until you fully experience it. We understand that being homeless is hard, and rough, but if you don’t have a network or friends, some of the issues are seemingly insurmountable.

“That is what drove me to work with HOME (, an Austin charitable organization of concerned women with a goal and mission to keep musicians 55 years and older in the Austin area housed. Anything we can do, like paying mortgage or rent, or phone bills. Musicians are being priced out of the city. My house is now worth more than twice what I paid for it, which creates the problem of can I pay for the real estate taxes to stay here. The musicians who rent, which is most of them, are completely priced out. It used to be that you could get a one bedroom for $750 a month. The base rate now is $1,500 and up. How do you do that and play music? Being on the Board of Directors is my way of giving a little bit back to honor the folks who used to put me up in their homes every now and then.”

The guitarist ultimately spent two years living in her van. She became an expert on figuring out her break-even charts, especially for her tours. Sometimes she came home to her husband after a tour with her guitar, and a little bit of debt.

IMAGELife as a touring musician can be hazardous, as the guitarist knows from first-hand experience. Some years ago the band was leaving Salt Lake City, heading to northern California. Near Elko, Nevada, they hit a patch of black ice just as they reached a mountain pass.

“It turns out there were six other accidents that night in the same spot. They never shut the road down or salted it. What do I know, I’m from Texas. There were fatalities in some of the the accidents. Once you hit the ice, there is nothing you can do. We ended up on the side of the road, got out of it ok. Then we see an 18 wheeler hit the patch. There was nothing he could do either. The truck was probably going about 50 mph when it started to jackknife, hitting the side of our van. The space-time continuum has a warp that you find when you head into an accident, where everything slows down. They had to cut me out of the van. I had one of the Peterbilt headlights in my lap.

“Our tour manager and I spent a night in the hospital. We were fortunate that none of us were seriously injured. We made it through, so let’s get the fuck out of here and finish the tour. We salvage the gear from the trailer, most of which was still working because we know how to pack, from playing Tetris as children. We got a U-Haul and only missed one gig. Twenty years later I finally got a new van.”

Over the years, Wonderland has released seven studio and live recordings under her name. Her eighth album, Tempting Fate, opened up a new chapter in her career. It was her first release after signing with Alligator Records.

“John Mayall is the best boss ever, a very generous man. After playing in his band the last few years, I had saved up enough to make a record. I had an idea for it, and 3-4 songs that needed to happen now, while they felt urgent and close to the chest. I was up in Woodstock hanging out with Cindy Cashdollar. The label I had been with, Bismeaux Productions, had dissolved. Cindy asked me what I was thinking of doing. I replied that in a perfect world, I’d like to put out a new record, and have Dave Alvin do it. I was just throwing that idea out there. So Cindy called Dave, and he agreed to produce my record.

“So it was no longer a dream, and I had to get things together. Dave came down to Austin for the sessions. The magic trick is, if you want your friends to be on your record, record in January! Chances are they won’t be on tour that month. So I got all of my friends to come and play, including my band plus Marcia Ball, Shelley King, Cindy, and of course Dave, which was amazing. Then Dave said, let’s get Jimmie Dale Gilmore to sing one one song. We dd it so fast, such a great time. You could catch the joy in the room.”

The excitement about the new album was soon obliterated by the onset of the pandemic.

“At that point, the only thing I knew to do was to go on the road and sell the discs out of the back of the van. I don’t know the rest of the business stuff. I’ve tried, but I just don’t understand it. So it looked like I was going to sit on it for a bit. But then I got a call from Bruce Iglauer at Alligator Records. He said, I understand that you have a record that I might want to hear. I said I would be honored if you would hear it. I figured that since I am so scattered, and all over the place, so he probably will only like one or two songs. He called me back a couple weeks later to tell me he liked it, and he wanted to put it out as is.

“It was a huge surprise, and so has everything that has happened since that moment. I don’t think we have ever had an album that folks listen to so much, or that the radio Djs still play. It blows my mind. I have written more thank you notes than I ever have before. I don’t know who got Bruce interested. I keep wondering if it was Marcia, but she won’t cop to it.”

IMAGEGuitarists often have a favorite guitar, or guitar style. For Wonderland, it has always been the Fender Thinline Telecaster guitar. But playing with Mayall opened her ears to other possibilities.

“After two tours, it seemed like something was missing. The Tele seemed to be taking up the same sonic space as the upper register of John’s keyboard. It wasn’t the mix that I hearing when I listened to John’s recordings. It took me a little while to figure out that I needed a guitar with P-90 pick-ups. So I pulled out my Gibson Blueshawk guitar, which had been a gift from a friend years ago. I had always been a bit intimidated by it. Turns out that it is the perfect guitar to play with him. Second gig in, John looked over to say, that’s the guitar, Love. Ok, you got it!

“I still have the Tele and play it at home, along with my Mom’s guitars. I love them all. On the road, it is now the Blueshawk. For the amplifier, my friend Adrian Goepferich here in Austin makes the Tone I/O, a beautiful Class A 20 watt amp. It’s not quite a Fender Princeton or Deluxe, but it is that kind of sound with a little more creaminess. That is my favorite amp these days. Sometimes I will run it in a pair with a Fender Blues Junior amp on top in stereo so, for example, when I sit down to play lap steel guitar, there is a good range of sound and I can hear the guitar no matter where I am. They are small amps that aren’t overpowering yet, if you are playing outside, they are powerful enough so that you can hear the guitar. It can be a little screamer!”

Wonderland got interested in the lap steel guitar at the urging of her drummer for many years, Eldridge Goins, who spotted one in a pawn shop twenty some odd years ago.

“He told me I should have it. So I said ok, but I had no idea as to what to do with it. I figured, if nothing else, I could paddle home from the middle of a lake with it! I went to my watch my friend Cindy Cashdollar, hands down my favorite lap steel player. To be able to ask her questions and pick her brain was perfect. If you go to her website (, she lists what the tunings and string gauges are for six or eight string models, which is a an awesome resource. On the record, the song “Crack In The Wall,” is one I am very proud of, but the part that makes me cry is her lap steel part.”

Wonderland has a great appreciation for people who listen to music they have never heard before. She also proud of several recent awards. On March 8, 2022, she took home two Austin Music Awards, one for Best Blues Artist and a second for Best Guitarist. Two days before that, she received a Feed The Peace Award from the Nobelity Project along with Marcia Ball and Shelley King.

“I’m pretty sure that we got that one for our advocacy and work that we do for HOME Austin. Awards scare me, but that one is very meaningful for me because people like Willie Nelson and Dan Rather have gotten that one. The folks at the Nobelity Project do a lot to make the whole frickin’ world a better place. They work on schools and water projects in Kenya, to schools and reforestation here at home. So it humbles, and awes me a touch.”

Visit Carolyn’s website to see where to catch her live at

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 9

IMAGEMarkey Blue Ric Latina Project – Jumpin’ the Broom

SoulOSound Records

10 songs – 40 minutes

Since meeting by chance in the early 2010s, vocalist Jeannette Markey and guitarist/songwriting partner Ric Latina have proven to be a major force in the Nashville music scene and each other’s lives, too. In addition to earning awards nominations for their three previous releases, their business relationship blossomed into a romance sealed by marriage three years ago – something they celebrate on this aptly titled disc of all-original, contemporary blues.

A former Las Vegas showgirl, singer, actress and stand-up comedienne originally from Hemet, Calif., Markey’s spent most of her adult life performing with a who’s who of talent – everyone from Bob Hope, Phyllis Diller, Frank Sinatra and ex-hubby Rich Little to Candye Kane, Coco Montoya, Taj Mahal and Anson Funderburgh to name a few. She possesses a searing and dynamic set of pipes and equally impressive stage presence.

Heavily influenced by Robben Ford, Larry Carlton and B.B. King, Latina’s a native of Coventry, R.I., who uses notes sparingly but with plenty of emotion. Formerly one of the top session players in Music City, he spent decades working in support of country giants Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams III, Suzy Bogguss and others, and fronting his own band, The Bomb Squad – which delivered R&B, jazz and blues-rock, when not touring.

After meeting at a showcase at which they both were booked to back other artists, Markey and Ric launched a songwriting project that resulted in a four-tune EP. When they served as the opening act for Memphis giant Steve Cropper one night, he fell so hard for one of their songs that he insisted he couldn’t get it out of his head. Their resulting relationship proved so strong that he penned the liner notes for Hey Hey, which a 2015 Blues Blast Music Award nominee for best debut album of the year.

Two more albums – The Blues Are Knockin’ and Raised in Muddy Water – have continued their ascendency, earning them a 2016 BBMA Sean Costello Rising Star Award nomination and multiple other honors along the way. In addition to radio airplay around the globe, their tunes also appear regularly in soundtracks on mainstream TV, major streaming services and movies.

Markey and Latina penned all ten tracks of this one, which was recorded at Brick House Studios and The Colemine Studio in Nashville. They’re backed by former Charlie Daniels Band keyboard player Shannon Wickline, horn and flute player Chris West, bassist Randy Coleman and percussionist Dave Northrup with guest appearances from Mark T. Jordan on keys and Dana Robbins on sax for one cut each.

“Bad for Real,” an unhurried, deep blues, opens the action with a funky run on the six-string from Ric before Markey launches into lyrics about a guy who’s gambled away his money and lost his woman, too. He cries the night away while listening in his head to Lady Luck urging that he come out again and play. Romantic problems continue in “Hanging On,” a soulfully jazzy complaint from a lady that she doesn’t want to hear her man telling her everything she’s done wrong – even though she admits he might be right – because they’re too far gone and she’s not that strong. Her pain’s also expressed through Latina’s passionate runs.

The action heats a little for “When It’s Blue,” a driving, horn-fueled shuffle that cautions about straying from the Golden Rule about doing no wrong when you think you can do no wrong, and continues in “Little Betty,” which describes a gal who parties hardy all night, but won’t play with boys who kiss and tell. It flows effortlessly into “Be With Me,” which insists it’s gonna take a “whole lotta lovin’” to get the job done.

Things quiet again for “Lowdown Voodoo Woman,” a haunting ballad about a lady who casts her spell so quickly that she’s already finished before you know what’s going on. The funk kicks up a notch for “You Got the Blues,” which suggests that life isn’t so bad as it often seems, before Robbins adds a little sparkle “Right Kind of Woman,” a Latin-flavored number that describes being in love with the wrong kind of man. Two more pleasers — “Crying Out Loud,” a ballad of acceptance of life’s struggles aided by Jordan, and “Where Are You,” a country-tinged ballad – bring the set to a close.

Jumpin’ the Broom is contemporary blues at its best. It’s a roller coaster ride of emotions that shines throughout.

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 & 3 of 9 


imageMatchbox Bluesmaster Series – Sets 5 and 6

Nimbus Records

6 discs in each set

The Matchbox Bluesmaster series was released from November 1982 to June 1988 by Saydisc Records. Rare 78 rpm records were loaned to supplement the ones on hand to create what was called “Complete Recordings in Chronological Order” along with some add on tracks. These records were mastered on tape and released on vinyl.

Austrian collector Johnny Parth edited the sets and got the recordings grouped and released by Saydisc in the UK. Hans Klement did the remastering work from Austrophon Studios in Vienna. The tracks selected were released in seven sets of six records and are here released on CD. The master tapes have long since vanished, so Norman White took the vinyl pressings and used high end transcription techniques to make the digital recordings. In addition to the 42 releases in these seven sets, even more music is expected for release as they have many pre-Bluesmaster cuts that can be released.

This music is early blues, originally released from 1926 to 1934; two cuts are from 1950, but the rest are from the ‘20’s and ‘30’s. Blues, gospel and hokum music (humorous blues with lots of sexual innuendos) were the order of the day for black recordings; labels like OKEH searched far and wide for artists to record, finding people on street corners, juke joints, and other places. This music that rose from the plantations and made its’ way into the urban centers became the impetus for urban blues, R&B and rock and roll.

Paul Oliver provides ample notes and data on each set of CDs. Oliver is a jazz and blues historian who has written 10 books on blues and gospel history and passed away in 2017 after a long career as a music historian and architect. He provides copious notes in a booklet for each set.

The quality of the sound of the songs ranges from fairly good to sometimes just listenable. Most are decent and offer the listener an in depth look at early blues as it was in the beginning of the recording era. I was provided Sets 5 and 6 for review. Each set was shipped with a one disc sampler of the six CD sets which give the listener an insight into the music, but it is the complete sets that make for an in depth and comprehensive listen of early artists honing their craft. The Matchbox Bluesmaster Series is released here by UK publishing company Nimbus Records. The series was produced by Gef Lucena.

Matchbox Bluesmaster Series – set 5 is comprised of six CDs with one artist per CD. They are Blind Lemon Jefferson (1926-1929), Frank Stokes (1927-1929), Blind Blake (1926-1929), Big Bill Broonzy (1927-1932), the Mississippi Sheiks Vol. 1 (1930) and Lonnie Johnson Vol. 1 (1926-1928). It is interesting to contrast the raw and emotive work of Jefferson to the more urban and polished performances of the likes of Broonzy and Johnson. The Memphis Sheiks reside in a soft spot in my heart and hearing them here and later on the next set gave me great joy. Broonzy went on to a lucrative and long performing and recording career and the Sheiks have recently had newly remasters stuff on high grade vinyl released, but the primal sounds here are something to appreciate. Another gem is Blind Blake’s CD. His superb vocals and guitar are something to truly savor. And if you want a chuckle or two, Stokes serves up some bawdy and humorous tunes to enjoy.

Matchbox Blues Master Series – set 6 offers six CDs, again with one artist per CD. They are Papa Charlie Jackson (1924-1929 recordings), the Memphis Jug Band (1927-1934), Barbeque Bob (1927-1930), Leecan & Cooksey (1926-1927), Roosevelt Sykes (1929-1934) and the Mississippi Sheiks Vol. 2 (1930-1934). More Sheiks? Great stuff! Wild and cool jug band tunes from Memphis and Papa Charlie Jackson’s high energy banjo are something to really appreciate. Leecan & Cooksey and Barbecue Bob offer more in the joyful and boisterous times of the 1920’s. And if it is dark and dirty and deeper blues you are looking for, then look no further than Roosevelt Sykes. He and the artists on his CD offer up some truly inspired tunes.

Each album on it’s own is a wonderful listen; each of the 6 CD sets is amazing and the 7 sets make up a huge collection of early blues that give the listeners mush to appreciate. Whether you are new to this music or a seasoned blues fan, these recordings are an amazing combination of music that can be enjoyed over and over again. The nuances and glimpses into what created our music over the years and up to today are here in these recordings.

These bluesmasters gave us the roots of all of America’s popular music and having this huge collection to savor gives the listener a superb view of blues as it began to be put down on records. I most highly recommend these sets to new and old blues lovers. There is something on each CD for the listener to appreciate and the sets become a huge compendium of great music for the collections of listeners.

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.


 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 9 

IMAGETrudy Lynn – Golden Girl

NOLA Blue Records – 2022

11 tracks; 46 minutes

Trudy Lynn in now in her 75th year and has been active in music since the 1960’s. She got her first break with Albert Collins, released her first single in 1973 and issued albums on a variety of labels, starting with Ichiban in 1989. In recent years she has enjoyed a very successful period working with harmonica player Steve Krase, releasing a string of albums on Steve’s Connor Ray Music label, one of which, Royal Oaks Blues Café, reached No.1 on the Billboard blues chart in 2013. Trudy has received 13 nominations for the Blues Music Awards.

For this release Trudy changed things around, working with Terry Wilson, bassist and main composer for Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps, as well as a fellow Houston native. The tracks were recorded in Houston with a strong cast of musicians behind Trudy’s vocals: Anson Funderburgh and Yates McKendree share guitar duties, Kevin McKendree is on keyboards, Brannen Temple is the main drummer, Mario Calire replacing him on one track; Steve Krase remains on harmonica, Darrell Leonard plays all the horn parts and Teresa James and Gregg Sutton contribute backing vocals. Terry Wilson is on bass throughout, plays occasional guitar and keys, produced and arranged the album. The writing credits are shared mainly between Terry and Trudy, with Gregg Sutton and Stuart Ziff chipping in a few co-writes and there is one song from outside the core band. The result is an album which successfully combines the sort of music familiar from Teresa and Terry’s own albums with Trudy’s distinctively deep and soulful vocals. This is Trudy’s first release on NOLA Blue.

The album opens with a brace of Trudy’s songs: “Tell Me” is an attractive, mid-tempo number with Trudy’s voice selling the song and McKendree father and son doing a great job on the instrumental side – check out Yates’ sharp solo mid-song; “Golden Girl Blues” has both Yates and Anson as well as horns on a catchy shuffle with lyrics about reaching that ‘Golden Girl’ age. “I’m Just Saying” has a stop-start rhythm that brings New Orleans to mind and Trudy asks her man to “Take Me Back” on a full band piece of Rn’B: Anson does his usual ‘less is more’ approach to soloing, Kevin plays some great piano and Darrell provides an excellent horn arrangement. “I Just Can’t Say Goodbye” is classic Texas blues with Anson’s lead work the perfect fit and some entertaining observations of fidelity: “If you choose me for your rose you can’t pick the lilies from the field”. Trudy’s other song is a co-write with Terry, Steve Krase’s harp well to the fore over a Bo Diddley beat on “Heartache Is A One Way Street”.

“If Your Phone Don’t Ring” has amusing lyrics provided by writers Terry Wilson and Gregg Sutton that inform the misbehaving partner that the silence on his phone means that Trudy is out of this relationship! Terry and Stuart Ziff provide two songs: “Is It Cold In Here” is a ballad that Trudy delivers beautifully with lovely support from the McKendrees and Teresa James’ backing vocals; “Live With Yourself” is more uptempo and examines how we conduct ourselves in this life and how we will match up to St Peter’s expectations on Judgement Day. “Life Goes On” is credited to Edwin Morris and Paul Robert Williams (who I believe to be the late Billy Paul), a slow blues with gospel overtones courtesy of the organ and horns, making a solid finale to the disc.

Another strong album from Trudy that may well feature in some of those end of the year lists.

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 – 5 of 9 

IMAGEDiunna Greenleaf – I Ain’t Playin’

Little Village Foundation

13 songs – 56 minutes

Despite winning the Blues Music Association’s Koko Taylor Award in 2014 and 2017 as traditional female vocalist of the year and piling up about a dozen other nominations since bursting on the scene in mid-2000s, it’s been 11 years since Houston-born Diunna Greenleaf has released an album. But she returns with a vengeance here, delivering a collection soulful blues that should relaunch her into the high orbit she deserves.

Only the fifth release in her career, this one was produced, mastered and engineered by Kid Andersen at his award-winning Greaseland Studios in San Jose, Calif., in partnership with Little Village Foundation, the non-profit founded by Grammy-award winning keyboard player Jim Pugh (Robert Cray, Etta James). And their work as instrumentalists is buried deep in all the tracks you’ll hear here.

The daughter of gospel singers Ben and Mary Ella Greenleaf, Diunna grew up singing in the church and influenced Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Sam Cooke, Charles Brown, Aretha Franklin and Koko herself. A powerful alto, she blends blues, gospel and soul into a cohesive package that delivers a heaping helping of emotion with every phrase.

A former president of the Houston Blues Society, she and her group, Blue Mercy rose to prominence when they were voted band of year at the 2005 International Blues Challenge, following it up in 2008 by winning BMA debut album-of-the-year honors for Cotton Field to Coffee House. Despite her acclaim, this is only the fifth album in her career, which also includes “Crazy” but Live in Houston, the self-titled Diunna Greenleaf and 2011’s Trying to Hold On. She also provided backup behind Pinetop Perkins on the 2008 Grammy-winner, Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live in Dallas.

Diunna’s backed by the cream of the crop of Bay Area bluesmen on this disc. In addition to Andersen, who plays guitar throughout and adds bass on one cut, and Pugh, a triple threat on piano, organ and clavinet, the roster includes superstar bassist Jerry Jemmott and Derrick “D’Mar” Martin, who spent decades keeping the beat for Little Richard and is now a fixture in Rick Estrin & the Nightcats.

Mike Rinta (trombone), Arron Lington (tenor sax, flute) and Jeff Lewis (trumpet) provide horns on six of the 13 tracks. And the album also includes contributions from Igor Prado and Nick Clark (guitar), Sax Gordon, Maelys “Miss Bee” Baey and Eric Spaulding (saxes) and Paul Revelli and Vicki Randle (percussion). Alabama Mike and Lisa Leuschner Andersen sit in on vocals for two cuts each, and The Sons of the Soul Revivers – Walker, James and Dwayne Morgan – make a guest appearance, too.

The cautionary “Never Trust a Man” – culled from Koko’s catalog – powers out of the gate atop a deep, medium-paced shuffle and gives the backing musicians plenty of space to shine as Diunna blows the back off of it before the Greenleaf original “Running Like the Red Cross” swings from the hip as it promises that – no matter the issue – she’ll be there to lend a hand.

Big James Montgomery’s love song for the music, “If It Wasn’t for the Blues,” gets a silky-smooth re-do before Diunna gets funky with her own “Answer to the Hard Working Woman,” a complaint about doing so much inside and outside the home for her man that she’d almost be better off on her own. She takes you to church with a stripped-down, uplifting version of Nina Simone’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” before the jazzy original, “Sunny Day Friends,” serves up a warning about folks who disappear in a heartbeat when times go bad.

Next up, Diunna’s delivery of the unhurried Vince Gill two-step country ballad “When I Call Your Name” is true blue, too. “I Don’t Care,” an early ‘60s regional hit for Dennis Roberts, and a stellar cover of “Damned If I Do,” first recorded by R&B giant Joe Medwick in 1969, follow before a barebones take on “I Know I’ve Been Changed” does the Staple Singers proud. Three more numbers — the original “Back Door Man,” Johnny Copeland’s “Let Me Cry” and Deitra Farr’s “My Turn, My Time” – bring the disc to a successful close.

Diunna Greenleaf has received some of the highest honors in the blues world, but she deserves far more attention from fans than she’s previously received. Run, don’t walk, to pick up this one and you’ll understand why. Strongly recommended.

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 9 

imageDionne Bennett – Sugar Hip Ya Ya

Hunnia Records

10 songs – 47 minutes

Dionne Bennett is a British-Jamaican singer-songwriter, producer, and radio personality and Sugar Hip Ya Ya is her debut album after a storied background in television, musical theatre and academia.

Her biography records her love of all Afro-culture influenced genres from blues and jazz to rhythm & blues, soul, reggae, drum bass funk, rock & roll, and beyond. Sugar Hip Ya Ya, however, sits perfectly in that blues/soul/R’n’B bracket that Etta James made her own. Indeed, James’ influence is acknowledged from the first track, a ferocious reading of “Tell Mama”. (The only other cover on the album is a timely and uplifting version of the Pointer Sisters’ “Yes We Can”.)

Sugar Hip Ya Ya is produced by two-time Blues Blast Music Award nominee Little G Weevil, who also wrote or co-wrote most of the tracks as well as adding lead guitar to the title track and backing vocals on other songs. He deserves great credit both for the excellent sound but also for capturing some superb performances.

Interestingly, the band and background vocals were recorded at Sounday Studio in Budapest, Hungary, while the lead vocals and horns were added a few days later at Supersize Studio in Törökbálint, Hungary. Such is the quality of the performances, however, that they genuinely sound like everything was recorded live. There is a real vitality and verve to both the playing and singing.

The musicianship is top class throughout. The core band comprises László Borsodi on lead guitar, Mátyás Premecz on organ and keyboards, Attila Herr on bass and Lajos Gyenge on drums and percussion. They are joined on various tracks by Tamás Sóvári on trumpet, Zoltán Albert on saxophone, and Jonathan Andelic, Aba Zsuffa, Robert Zoltán Hunka and Little G Weevil on backing vocals. Every musician is outstanding, but this is not an album of virtuoso soloing (though no doubt they could do that if they wished). This an album of well-crafted soul/blues/R’n’B songs, played and sung with rare passion.

The title track is a 70s-style funk workout, while “Spy Me” has a guitar/keyboard riff that Deep Purple probably wish they’d written in 1974. The bass riff in “My Life” is almost worth the price of admission by itself, while the top-tappingly catchy “Full Time Job” has hints of the early 80s (think “Footloose” or Huey Lewis), even down to the irresistible hand claps.

And over each track, Bennett’s wonderfully dynamic, melodic voice imposes emotional commitment and rhythmic power. Equally comfortable on the driving “Get It Right” or the haunting “Don’t Fall For Love”, there is a real sense that Bennett has got it all.

By the time the final track, the glorious soul-funk of “Get Style” finishes (and on this track the musicians really do let loose), you just want to start listening to the entire album again.

On the evidence of Sugar Hip Ya Ya, Dionne Bennett is going to be a big star. This is a very, very impressive debut album.

Reviewer Rhys “Lightnin'” Williams plays guitar in a blues band based in Cambridge, England. He also has a day gig as a lawyer.


 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 9 

IMAGEBrandon Teskey – Screaming into the Void


CD: 12 Songs, 54 Minutes

Styles: Acid Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Guitar Monster Blues

One of the lessons I learned from watching the movie King Richard is that if the path others have paved doesn’t suit you, then go your own way. That’s what Richard Williams had to do to propel his daughters Venus and Serena to tennis stardom. That’s also what Arizona blues rock guitarist Brandon Teskey has done on his second independent album. He exudes raw, hard-driving energy in a fusion of blues, rock and psychedelia, bringing Joe Satriani and Carlos Santana to mind.

Just listen to the first two songs – Screaming into the Void and “Vertigo on the Heights of Desire.” They’re both instrumentals, and MAN, are they good. How good? They made me glad I stayed up past 1 AM to write this review. On nine original tracks and three covers (“Side Tracked” by Freddy King, “Autumn Leaves” by Joseph Kosma and Jacques Prevert, and “Equinox” by John Coltrane), Teskey holds nothing back – not his rip-roaring riffs, skillful guitar phrasing, or octane level. This is a wild ride from start to finish, so buckle your seat belts.

Brandon was born and raised in Southern California. At age 11 he began playing guitar and was exposed to blues music shortly thereafter, becoming consumed with the art of Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Albert King, Robert Johnson, Albert Collins, and T-Bone Walker, as well as rock artists like Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, and Eric Johnson. An obsession with songwriting also sprang up within the young man.

By the time he was 15 years old, he had joined an established blues band with some members forty years his senior. By the time he was 16, he had played the prominent San Juan Capistrano venue, The Coach House, where he had seen many of his idols play as a kid.

In 2017 Teskey released The Chime, a solo rock instrumental album which combined the influences of rock, Delta blues, electronic rock, and jazz. The same year Brandon, along with other bandmates, formed ‘Until the Sun’, which allowed Brandon to return to his Blues-Rock roots and opened new doors of creativity. In 2019 Until the Sun released their debut album, Blackheart, followed by their 2021 album, Drowning in Blue. Throughout 2021, Until the Sun played numerous shows and went on some small tours, despite the COVID lockdown.

With Teskey (guitar and lead vocals) are Chris Tex on drums, Jon Nadel on bass, Alyssa Swartz on vocals, Will Kyriazis on keyboard, and Danny Markovitch on saxophone.

You might not think there are any slow tunes on this album, considering its title, but Teskey and company surprise us with “Amare Nocturne,” number five. It’s short, sweet, and smooth. The band strikes the right balance between passion and finesse, not getting carried away with long solos and fancy tricks. Don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty of flair here, but it’s in the service of the greater good: romance. Grab a partner and dance!

Another fascinating song is “Tree of Life,” meditative and reminiscent of Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight.” It’ll relax and energize you at the same time. The best thing about it, though, is how smoothly the main melody and the background blend into each other. Neither is meant to overpower the other, like yin and yang in perfect equilibrium. Alyssa Swartz provides warm and expressive background vocals.

Get this album. Get it right now. It’ll have you Screaming into the Void in blues/acid rock ecstasy.

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.


 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 9 

imagePaul Oscher with Pinetop Perkins & Willie Smith – Rough Stuff

CoolStreme Music Services

13 songs – 43 minutes

When Paul Oscher succumbed to COVID-19 a few weeks after his 74th birthday in 2021, the world of blues lost a truly unique talent. A master harmonica player and storyteller who spent five years as the first-ever white musician in a black blues band when he played with Muddy Waters, he was also a master guitarist and piano player, too, having been schooled by Mud himself and Otis Spann – with whom he shared living quarters in Waters’ basement.

All of those skills come to the fore on this long-out-of-print reissue disc, which first saw the light of day in the early ‘90s on Lollipop Records, but never gained traction because the label went belly-up soon after. Lovers of old-school blues can rejoice, however, because this lovingly remastered effort shines like a diamond.

A Brooklyn, N.Y., native who spent his final years in Austin, Texas, and served as a major influence to both Jerry Portnoy and Magic Dick of the J. Geils Band, Oscher began studying the instrument after receiving one as a gift from an uncle at age 12, when he caught the ear of Jimmy Johnson, a longtime performer in medicine shows, who taught him how to play.

He was so proficient that he worked regularly at age 15 with Little Jimmy Mae, a fixture in the borough and across Long Island. Mae introduced him to Muddy. After sitting in with him at Smalls Paradise two years later, Waters hired him on the spot to fill the chair vacated by Cotton who’d launched his solo career.

Recorded in New York when Oscher was working locally under the name Brooklyn Slim, Paul plays all three instruments – and accordion, too – here and provides vocals on 12 of the 13 tracks, which include seven solo performances and six others with pianist Pinetop Perkins and drummer Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, his former bandmates in Muddy’s band. Sax player Willie Bridges and an unidentified bassist appear on one cut.

The Muddy original, “Iodine in My Coffee,” opens the action with Paul doubling on guitar and racked harp with Pinetop on keys, interspersing train-inspired runs on the reeds with six-string runs that strongly resemble Muddy. His warm, mid-range voice is pleasantly behind the beat throughout. Perkins yields the stool for Oscher and Smith joins the action for a sprightly cover of Big Joe Turner’s “Wee Wee Baby” next, and Paul’s light touch and two-fisted action on the 88s would have made Otis – who passed in 1970 – smile.

The solo original bluesy ballad “Debra Lou,” a tribute to “the sweetest gal I ever knew,” follows with Paul on guitar and harp before he reinvents country giant Roy Acuff’s classic, “Wabash Cannonball,” retitled “Cannonball Rock” and aided by Bridges, the bassist and probably Smith on brushes, although he’s uncredited. The sound changes dramatically for the original “DownTrack,” which finds Oscher back on the 88s with Big Eyes in tow. It’s a jazzy, urban, stop-time blues penned to honor a professional three-card Monte player friend with spoken lyrics throughout.

A traditional take on Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Sloppy Drunk” follows with Paul tag-teaming guitar and harp before Oscher covers two Mississippi John Hurt standards, turning to accordion to deliver “Louis Collins” – which describes a mother mourning her gunned-down son – and just harmonica for the familiar “Liza Jane.” Top and Willie join the action together for the only time in the set with Paul on slide for a sprightly all-instrumental reworking of the traditional “John Henry” before a country-blues, guitar-harp take on Turner’s Kansas City classic, “B&O Blues” follows.

Another unhurried, spoken-word original, “Mississippi,” finds Oscher on guitar and Willie on skins, before Paul delivers another tune from Hurt’s songbook, “Make Me a Pallet.” A sweet, finger-picked stunner, it precedes a take on James Carr’s “Blues Before Sunrise,” which features Pinetop at the top of his game to conclude the set.

Paul Oscher was an excellent student of the blues and absolute monster artist, too. If he slipped under your radar during his life, give this a listen and you’ll understand why his talent was appreciated so greatly by his peers. Strongly recommended.

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 – 9 of 9 

imageSam Moss – Blues Approved

Schoolkids Records – 2022

14 tracks; 49 minutes

The name Sam Moss probably means little or nothing to most blues music fans, but in his home base of Winston-Salem, N.C., he was a legend. He inspired many local musicians to follow in his footsteps, yet never released a record in his lifetime. Sam became a dealer in vintage guitars but passed in 2007, with no recorded legacy. However, Sam had recorded an album’s worth of music. In 1977 he laid down eight tracks at friend Chris Stamey’s house: Sam is on guitar, bass and vocals, Mitch Easter on drums, Chris on organ. Working on the tapes, Chris felt that the music had stood the test of time and deserved to be heard but asked Crispin Cioe of The Uptown Horns to add saxes to further accentuate the soul aspects of some tracks. To supplement the 1977 sessions there are five covers recorded with Henry Heidmann on bass and keys, Jay Johnson or Ted Lyons on drums, Mike Kennedy on congas, Mike Wesolowski on harmonica and Faith Johnson on B/V’s, Chris Stamey again engineering the sessions which took place sporadically between 1989 and 1993. Finally there is one track recorded in 1967 by Sam’s first band The Clique: Sam on guitar/vocals, Dale Smith rhythm guitar, Corky McMillan bass and Jerry Lee drums.

Although the material is not arranged chronologically on the CD it makes sense to review it in order of recording. The Clique track was recorded at a rehearsal and the band enthusiastically runs through Buck Owens’ “Act Naturally”; sound quality is not great, but it is probably the only evidence of the teenage Sam still in existence.

The eight tracks that had the working title of Blues Approved sound a lot better. All the material is original, starting with “Rooster Blood” and “King Of My Hill”: the former is a shuffle with solid vocals and guitar, beefed up by the saxes; the latter is a slow soul-blues ballad, Sam sounding quite soulful as he declares that he is going to set himself up as “the king of my hill”, the saxes adding choruses that recall “You Don’t Miss Your Water”. Sam opens “Vida Blanche” with double-tracked guitar which gives the tune a Stones-like feel, especially when the saxes join in to great effect, and Sam’s quick-fingered soloing is great. Sam is “Trying To Do Better”, a song with an attractive refrain but challenges his vocal range a little before the strangely titled “To Those Still At Sea”, another rocker with added organ. “My Man Mike” takes us back to the blues with a spare, funky sound, almost acoustic in style; in contrast the instrumental “Nightflight Over Berlin” is full of overdubbed guitars, laying down a heavy backdrop over which Sam plays some screaming wah guitar. The 1977 sessions conclude with the enigmatic “PJ” which does not sound as clear as the other tracks, perhaps a legacy of the original recording?

The later tracks offer varied fare. “Ain’t That Peculiar” is well done, harp standing in for the horns of Marvin Gaye’s original. Faith Jones’ backing vocals help the song a lot and Sam does a good job on the lead vocal. “If You See My Baby” was the lead-off track on Michael Bloomfield’s debut solo album It’s Not Killing Me and Sam does another solid job on vocals and guitar while the harp adds a significant blues factor. The final three tracks on the CD are labelled as ‘bonus tracks’: all stem from the 1989-93 sessions but do not sound quite as crisp as the Gaye and Bloomfield covers. The Monkees hit “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin) works well, despite a rather distant sounding lead vocal but if you think that that song is a bit ‘pop’ for a blues album, imagine “Can’t Get Used To Losing You” (yes, the Andy Williams mega-hit), here played as a very 60’s sounding instrumental; this reviewer was somewhat surprised to discover that the song was written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman! Finally, Sam returns to one of his influences, taking on the Jagger/Richards obscurity “Who’s Driving Your Plane”, the B-side of “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow”.

Clearly a labor of love for engineer and producer Chris Stamey, the disc stands as a good tribute to his lost friend, a man who probably deserved to be better known in the wider music world.

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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