Issue 16-16 April 21, 2022

Cover photo © Roger Stephenson

 In This Issue 

Marty Gunther has our feature interview with Gina Coleman. We have eight Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Eliza Neals, Horojo Trio, The Ed Palermo Big Band, Little G Weevil, Tim Gartland, Michael van Merwyk, Jerome Pietri and The Clara Rose Band . 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 – Gina Coleman 

imageBased out of the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts, vocalist Gina Coleman and her horn band, Misty Blues, are a feel-good story in an industry crippled by chaos and disease. Instead of sitting on the sidelines during COVID-19 shutdown, they’ve gone to work, releasing three full-length CDs and steadily gained traction with airplay and positive reviews around the world.

But, as Blues Blast learned in a recent interview, none of it would have ever happened if Gina hadn’t started singing on a dare as an adult and then received unexpected praise from three of the brightest stars on Broadway and in Hollywood.

Bucolic Williamstown, Mass. — where the band was founded in 1999 — definitely isn’t a hotspot for the blues. It’s far better known as a hotbed for big-time theater and as a genteel locale where folk music fills the night air. It’s a peaceful, pleasant town that was something akin to a foreign land to Gina, too.

A New York City native, she grew up in the South Bronx not far from Yankee Stadium in a home filled with rhythm-and-blues, gospel and the sounds of reggaeton emanating from the large Puerto Rican community that once dominated the enclave.

The fact that Gina caught the blues in Williamstown is nothing short of a miracle, although, if things had been different, there might have been an outside chance she’d make a name for herself in gospel.

“At one point, my grandmother, Ruth, was considered to be an upcoming gospel star like Marian Anderson,” remembers fondly. “But I never heard her singing. By the time I came along, she was so busy raising her own children (and grandkids) that all of that left her.

“And I didn’t sing as a young child either. The singing part came after I graduated from college.”

Her interest in music developed thanks to her grandfather who bought her a piano at age she five and paid for lessons – “with Mrs. Horowitz” — for the next eight years. She picked up guitar around the same time on an on-again, off-again basis. “I didn’t start concentrating on that until recently,” admits Coleman with a chuckle, noting she performs on cigar-box today. “I wish I’d kept at it…I’d be almost a virtuoso by now…and I’m not!”

She’s been based out of the rolling hills in extreme northwest corner of Massachusetts since the mid-‘80s, when she enrolled in Williams College. Founded in 1793 — just 17 years after the American Revolution – and about 40 minutes due east of Albany, N.Y., it was the first university in the U.S. to offer financial aid through grants instead of requiring students to take out loans for tuition.

The first time she sang in public came after her graduation in 1990 when she was working in a residential treatment facility for emotionally and physically abused children. She joined a few of her co-workers and went to the nearby town of Pittsfield for a girls’ night out.

“They were telling me: ‘You really don’t know anything about the Berkshires because you’ve been in that ivory castle (Williams) for four years,’” she remembers. “It was a Wednesday night and we went out to a venue called La Cosina, which had an open-mic night. We went out for a few drinks and to hear some live music.

“After a couple of rounds of tequila, someone at the table dared me to get up and sing. I’m like…’I don’t sing.’ Then they double-dared me – and I also don’t pass up a double-dare!”

After all, she says, she had nothing to lose. “It was the first time I set foot in that place, and I was new to the area. I knew I never had to set foot in there again if I really bombed.”

Fueled by alcohol, Coleman launched into a take on Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz,” singing acapella – “and I won,” she says, still somewhat incredulous. “I won 75 dollars! That was a great night!”

imageSeven days later she returned for a repeat performance, but wound up singing with a stranger instead after another attendee, Dave Lincoln, approached her and said: “You’re the girl who won last week. Can we work up something together?”

Gina acquiesced, unknowingly launching what would become her first musical partnership with the singer, guitarist/drummer. Within four weeks, their acoustic duet, The Siblings, were working paying gigs in the area.

That venture lasted about two years before Coleman moved on to establish Cole-Connection, a five-piece acoustic ensemble that billed itself as a folk/funk group, which eventually broadened their songbook to include Gina’s originals and performed throughout the ‘90s. In 1999, however, the lineup was in upheaval. A couple of members were moving out of the area.

As luck would have it, however, Coleman was presented with an opportunity that would change her life forever. “And I might have passed it if Cole-Connection hadn’t been in so much flux,” she admits.

She was drafted to play a gospel singer for a production of A Raisin in the Sun, which was going to be presented at the annual Williamstown Theatre Festival, one of the most important events of its kind in the nation.

Penned by Lorraine Hansberry, it tells the story of a black family’s experience with housing discrimination and racism in Chicago after a windfall insurance payout following the death of the father. Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee were the original stars on Broadway and the big screen when the play debuted, and – in hindsight — the cast for the Williamstown run was just as impressive.

Years before filling her trophy case with Oscars, Tonys and Emmys, a young Viola Davis was cast as the female lead, Ruth, with Ruben Santiago-Hudson starring as Walter. Although his name might not be as familiar, his pedigree as a Tony-winning actor/playwright/producer is just as impressive with credits that include Lackawanna Blues, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and roles on everything from All My Children to Coming to America and Selma. And two other major Hollywood talents — Kimberly Elise, best known for The Manchurian Candidate and Almost Christmas, and Gloria Foster, the oracle in The Matrix — were in the lineup, too.

When he was casting the play, however, Gina remembers, the director, Jack Hofsiss, found it almost impossible to find a local actress to play the gospel singer whose role primarily served as musical bridge between scenes.

To put it simply, Coleman says, literally stood out from the crowd – and not just for the singing prowess she’s recognized for today. “I live in Williamstown,” she laughs, “so there’s not a lot of African-Americans up here…or singers.

“The director was looking for an African-American singer. Everyone just kinda pointed him in my direction! I basically hung out on a fire escape that was rigged across the main stage through the entire show.”

And it was Santiago-Hudson who was the first to spot her true musical potential.

“He said: ‘You’ve gotta stop that folk-funk nonsense and do the blues,’” she remembers, “’your voice is perfectly suited for it.’”

The show went off without a hitch on opening night, July 21, 1999, but Gina wasn’t prepared for the throng of friends and fans who were gathered to celebrate, offer congratulations and get autographs near the performers’ exit when she bounded off of the stage prior to the final curtain call.

“I just wanted to go home, and I’m met by this wall of people,” she says. “I was so frightened that I actually ran back in the theater because I didn’t know what to do. I asked a few people, and they told me: ‘Just go and say hello, shake some hands, what have you.’

image“So I go back out, find a friend to talk to — and this white-haired woman…you can hear her from the back of the crowd saying ‘’Scuse me, ‘scuse me’…it’s like she’s parting the Red Sea…she assaults me almost. She’s like: ‘You were phenomenal! My husband and I, we loved you so-o-o much! Wait right here. I gotta go get him.’

“I go to my friend: ‘Cuckoo, cuckoo!’ She comes back and in tow…pulls through the crowd…her husband, Mandy Patinkin (who’d recently received a Tony for starring in Evita). I immediately know who he is…I had no words.

“He was so-o-o effusive…‘Your voice was just magnificent!’

“I was like…‘What?!? You’re Mandy Patinkin!’ (belly laugh) I didn’t understand this at all.”

Gwyneth Paltrow was also in town to rehearse the next play, Quark Victory, which shared the same space as the Raisin actors who continued working out kinks in their own show. When she and Coleman crossed paths in the lobby one afternoon, she heaped on even more praise about Gina’s performance.

The kicker came toward the end of the play’s run when Santiago-Hudson repeated his earlier suggestion and driving home his message by gifting Coleman a copy of Men Are Like Streetcars: Women Blues Singers 1928-1969, a two-CD, 46-track MCA Records set that includes selections from Memphis Minnie, Billie Holiday, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Alberta Hunter to Big Mama Thornton, Katie Webster, Lavelle White, Etta James, Sugar Pie DeSanto and Koko Taylor and others.

“I’d already heard a few of the tunes independently,” Gina admits, “but when they were strung together, it put me on my heels. I was like: ‘Wow! This is a thing. This is a thing…this blues thing!’ (laughs)

“I already had some understanding what blues was. But when it was packaged – and handed – to me, it was transformative to listen to it all together and see the connections between the female artists across the decades…how it evolved and how certain things were just fundamental to the genre.

“I found it fascinating” – so much so, in fact, that she approached guitarist Jason Webster and bassist Bill Patriquin, the remaining members of Cole-Connection, and said: “‘Let’s switch things up. Let’s become a blues band. And they were like…’Okay.’

“And off the top of my head, I said: ‘Let’s call ourselves “Misty Blues.”’

“We were basically doing Men Are Like Street Cars when we started,” remembers Gina whose influences include Bessie Smith, Joplin, Holiday and Patti Cathcart, the female half of the jazz duo, Tuck & Patti. “We were a blues band doing almost exclusively female blues covers.”

Today’s lineup still includes Patriquin along with a pair of music educators — Benny “Fingers” Kohn (keyboards) and Rob Tatten (drums and trumpet), guitarist Seth Fleischmann and saxophonist Aaron Dean, and it boasts a deep roster of other musicians on a “farm team,” too.

And instead of invoking sounds of the past, their playlist features a thoroughly contemporary sound that’s infused with plenty of jazz, funk and soul with a dash of Delta and Big Easy. They’ve released 11 albums since their founding, and Gina’s husband, Michael Mongue, has created the cover illustrations for all of them.

“It clear that each of the guys in my band love jazz as much as they love the blues,” she says, “and we can’t stifle those influences. I think it’s really what creates our sound.”

As talented as her unit is individually, they work together to provide rich, layered backing that never overpowers the vocals but take full advantage of arrangements that allow for plenty of space to shine on solos. Most of the material on recent releases have been loaded with Coleman originals thanks to her innate ability to construct complete tunes from a seed of an idea in a single sitting, teaming lyrics with a simple melody and structure that’s built out by her bandmates.

image“Some of them I labor over,” she admits, “but my ‘labor’ isn’t like anybody else’s. These songs just flood to me. It’s very unusual, and I have a lot of people who are very envious (laughs). “There’s pretty much not a day that goes by that something doesn’t flood to me and I have to document.

“Sometimes I can’t attend to it right away, so I just put it in a voice recorder and go back to it. But I get whole songs…whole!…in my sleep, and I have to wake up and jot them down. Hence, I don’t sleep much (laughs).”

Misty Blues’ first all-original album, 2012’s Between the Stacks, featured a contribution from Grammy-winner Charles Neville, the Neville Brothers saxophonist who passed in 2018. His presence was an unexpected stroke of good fortune, Gina says, unlike the band’s latest effort, One Louder, which includes three major talents in its grooves.

“He had moved to a neighboring town in the Berkshires and we crossed paths with him many times in live performance format at benefits,” she says. “Our music was right up his alley, but I was never bold enough (laughs) to think that he would want to record with us. It never entered my mind at all.

“It was before Aaron joined the band, and I had another saxophonist come in and work up some of my songs for the album. We were scheduled to go into the studio, and, at the last minute, he called all apologetic, telling me he was double-booked.

“I said: ‘That’s really unfortunate for the other band, right?’

“He’s like: ‘No-o-o. It’s unfortunate for you.’

“I was scrambling to re-envision the arrangements. But something inside me said: ‘You know what…just reach out to Charles. He’s a nice guy…nothing ventured, nothing gained.’ I shot him an email…‘he-e-ey, if you’re not doin’ anything…’ Fifteen minutes later, he replied: ‘Yeah. Sure. Sounds like fun.’

“I immediately went into a panic. ‘I don’t have any money,’ I told him. ‘But I can muster up some for gas – and I can feed you!’ (laughs). He said: ‘You’re so silly, Gina. Don’t worry about it!’

“I said: ‘Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute, Charles! We’ve played together live a lot. But you’ll never be able to deny what we’ve done together on the permanent record.’

“He just thought I was so ridiculous!”

As successful as that venture proved to be, Coleman admits that it took another four years – with the release of her Dark & Saucy album in 2016 – that she really started believing that she and Misty Blues truly had something special.

The band failed in an attempt to win the regional International Blues Challenge event run by the Capitol Region Blues Network in Albany in 2017, but they made good use of the lessons they learned in failure – especially about engaging with the audience more rather than packing as many songs as they could into a short set – winning the local competition a year later and making it to the worldwide finals in Memphis, where they were runners-up to St. Louis-based Ms. Hy-C and Fresh Start in Memphis in 2019.

Unable to capitalize on their success because of COVID-19, all of the members of Misty Blues were more fortunate than many groups because they all were working decent day jobs. But they’re chomping at the bit to take things to the next level now – something that seems inevitable thanks to the recordings they’ve released during the pandemic.

“We call ‘em the Irish triplets,” Gina jokes.

Both Weed ‘Em & Reap and None More Blue created traction, but their most recent effort, One Louder, is proving to be an attention-grabber both for the high quality of music it contains and thanks to contributions from Joe Louis Walker, BigLlou Johnson and Justin Johnson, the acoustic guitar virtuoso.

It’s their first outing on Britain’s Lunaria Records, a relationship that began after Coleman cruised the internet, came across the work of another of their artists and loved their sound. Misty Blues was already getting airplay in the UK and had already cancelled a planned tour. On a whim, she sent a cold-call email along with some of the group’s recordings, informing the recipient that she “liked their stuff…here’s some of ours. If you like it, too, let’s talk.”

imageLike her experience with Neville, she says, the response was almost immediate and Misty Blues joined Lunaria’s roster as the first of their groups with a home base in the New World.

The disc is even more special, Gina says, because, for the first time in the band’s 13-year history, they actually sought out major blues talents in the hope they’d lend a hand. “It put a completely different spin on what we were doing,” she notes, “and it was very energizing for us, too.

“It was interesting to see how Joe, BigLlou and Justin interpreted our music, and we just ran with it from there.”

Her introduction to Walker came as both a major blessing and an equally major surprise.

“I was on a radio junket for None More Blue, and did an interview with Danny Coleman, who hosts Danny Coleman’s Got the Blues on (public radio station) WWFM-FM out of Trenton, N.J.,” she remembers. “In the course of the interview, he asked: ‘Who are some of the artists you’d love to work with?’ I gave a few names, and one of ‘em happened to be Joe Louis Walker.

“He’s like: ‘Wow! I know Joe Louis Walker…we’re friends. We talked a couple of weeks ago.’

“Very tongue-in-cheek, I told him: ‘Whoa, Danny… the next time you talk to him, tell him Gina Coleman wants to work with him.’ We laughed it off and went on with the interview. Two days later, I’m at my day gig – she’s associate director of admissions at Williams today when not gigging or touring — and I get this call. The I.D. says (the town where Joe resides, which is not far from her in Upstate New York).

“Normally, I’d ignore it, but something told me to answer it, and the voice on the other end said: ‘Is this Gina Coleman?’

“’Who’s calling?’”

“’This is Joe Louis Walker.’”

Right, I thought. This is one of my friends punkin’ me ‘cause I have not-so-great friends (laughs). ’Okay… all right, Joe Louis Walker, to what do I owe the pleaser of this call?’ That’s exactly how I was speaking to him.

“He laughed and says: ‘No-o-o. You were on a radio show with Danny Coleman and….’ He started lining it out. And I go: ‘Oh-h-h, Mr. Walker…’”

Shortly thereafter, he requested that she send him some material and told her that, if he liked it, he’d be happy to do it.

“At the time, I was doing some thinking about re-doing ‘Take a Long Ride,’ which appeared on our Pickled & Aged album,” she says. “It never took off like I thought it should. I wanted to re-do everything…my vocals, the arrangement…and thought: ‘I bet he could re-energize it with a big, chunky solo in the middle…just let him go!’”

For Coleman, the song had deep personal meaning and deserved far more exposure than it had initially received. She’d written it tune while driving home from a gig one night. She was traveling a long distance and missing her family greatly.

The band went to work immediately, recharting and recorded the new version in about a week before sending it to Walker for his consideration. Three days later, he called again, gave it his stamp of approval and told Gina he’d be going into the studio to lay down his track that Friday and invited her to “come by around noon” to say hi.

“My guitarist and I both skipped work,” she says in a hushed voice. “By the time I got home from my gig in Lenox (a neighboring town) that same night, I had a finished file in my in-box,” she says. “And by the time the weekend was over, his track was mixed into ours.”

Now serving as the closing number on One Louder, it’s a funky pleaser with powerful horn runs and an adventurous, funky solo from Joe that verges on psychedelic and takes the tune to an entirely different level.

imageAnother high point of the CD is “How the Blues Feels,” a ballad that’s delivered in duet with BigLlou, teaming features two of the warmest low-range voices in the industry. It’s a soulful pleaser that features horns that deliver a Dixieland feel in counterpoint to harmonica runs from Bob Stannard, an enduring fixture in the New England music scene.

“BigLlou and I met when he emceed Bob’s 70th birthday party in Manchester, Vt., a few years ago, and we kept in touch,” Coleman says. “I saw him again at the 2019 IBCs – he was cheerin’ us on…I could hear his voice shouting in the crowd. After getting Joe Louis Walker on one track, I thought: ‘Why stop?’ I’ve written this great song, and it would work really well as a duet…’

“I pitched it to him, he loved it and did it – and then Justin Johnson came aboard for “Freight Train.”

Co-written with her son, Diego, who came up with the melody, it’s an interesting downhome blues that presents Justin’s stellar cigar-box slide runs in a unique setting. He delivers them while engaging in interplay with the horns.

Justin and Gina developed a relationship after she received a cigar-box guitar as a present eight years ago and subsequently acquired Johnson’s popular instructional series to teach herself how to play it. “I wrote my first cigar-box song, ‘Here My Call’ – on the Call & Response album,” she says, “and I sent him the video and thanked him because it wouldn’t have happened without him.

“We became Facebook friends. And then, later: ‘Wanna be on my album?’”

Other standout tracks in the set include “Seal of Fate,” which is delivered with a reggae/zydeco feel, and “A Long Hard Way,” which pulls from several sources in the American songbook.

But Misty Blues isn’t resting on their laurels. They’re well on the way toward producing their 12th album, Coleman says. It’ll feature a number she’s penned after receiving an extremely racist remark – now removed — in the comments of a video she posted from the new CD. And after the most recent disc, there’s no telling who’s going to pop up on the new one. Gina’s already got a couple of folks with different vocal qualities than her own in mind.

Meanwhile, the band’s working regularly across the New York-Vermont-Massachusetts region with occasional forays into Canada and as far south as Birmingham and Muscle Shoals, Ala., Memphis and Clarksdale, Miss. They recently made a brief run to Virginia, and they’ll be appearing at the FreshGrass Festival headlined by Gary Clark Jr. in North Adams, Mass., this September. A European tour planned for this summer has been rescheduled for 2023 because of potential COVID problems.

Check out Misty Blues’ music and where Gina and the boys will be playing next by visiting their website:

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. Now based out of Charlotte, N.C., his first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.


 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

imageEliza Neals – Badder To The Bone

E-H Records

10 tracks

Eliza Neals emerges from the dark days of the pandemic with a hot new album featuring nine new songs she wrote (or co-wrote) and one great cover. Apparently the pandemic did nothing to impact Neals’ music as she returns with one of if not her best efforts in Badder To The Bone. I was really impressed with each of the songs and the performances.

Following her 2020 release Black Crow Moan, by my count this is Neals 10th album/EP. Hailing from Detroit, Eliza is a powerful blues rocker who sings with no holds barred and has always had premier players in her band. This album continues in that tradition with great musicians and high energy performances by Neals. Neals handles all the vocals and plays piano on the even tracks and adds B3 to “Fueling Me Up.”Lance Lopez plays some standout guitar on four cuts while Peter Keys handles b3/organ, Jason Kott plays bass and Tim Grogan drums on the same tracks. Michael Puwal plays guitar and adds bass to four other songs. Billy “JC” Davis adds guitar to “Got A Gun” while Paul Randolph adds his bass to that and “Heathen.” John Galvin plays piano on those two tracks and Skeeto Valdez handles the drums. Bryan Clune and Jeffrey “Shakey” Fowles aptly provide the rest of the drum support and Kymberli Wright backs Eliza up vocally on “Heathen.” It’s a fine cast of musical characters on this album.

The album opens with the driving beat of “United We Stand” which features some wicked slide work and nice vocals by Neals. Neals follows that with “Queen of the Nile,” taking the tempo down and giving an impassioned performance. Lopez offers a superb guitar solo and Keys adds some tasty B3 to the mix. “Lockdown Love” follows with Puwal featured on the cut. She bemoans pigging out and being lazy during the pandemic in this excellent slow blues. Puwal once again kills it on the guitar. Next is “King Kong” which opens with a rousing guitar introduction and then Neals gets into it, comparing her lover in a good way to the famed giant movie ape. Another stinging guitar solo is presented here, too. “Bucket of Tears” follows, a soulful ballad that Neals nails. A little more slide to enjoyed is offered up here, but Neals steals the show vocally.

Billy Davis is a guest on guitar on “Got A Gun,” which also features some nice B3 organ. It’s a rousing cut where Neals threatens she’s got a gun and not to mess with her because she’ll use it. Sounds like a great relationship – not. “Fueling Me Up” is next, a rocking, slower blues with lots of energy and emotion. There’s some more special slide guitar here, too. Next is “Heathen,” a slow and more than mournful blues with organ and piano by Neals where Neals sings of a cheating lover who is not only a heathen but she also wishes he’d also stop breathin’ on top of it all. Galvin tinkles the keys nicely here and Keys shine on organ. The Stevie Winwood classic “Can’t Find My Way Home” gets reworked as the lone cover on the CD. Neals keeps the tempo slow, a tad slower than the original, and turns it into a somber and cool rendition. Lopez handles the guitar here and does an outstanding job. Eliza sings with deep seeded passion and the cut builds and builds to a dual guitar solo that is spectacular. The emotions grow as Neals returns and then there is another frenzied piece of guitar work to finish the cut off as Neals redoes the chorus one last time- well done! The final tracks I “Queen Of The Nile II,” a reprise of sorts of the second cut. It echoes the feel of the prior cut, with solid vocals and stinging guitar, another winner.

I was really impressed by this album. Neals always provides lots of energy and power in her music, but this album rose above her others for me in displaying a new level of musical maturity. The songs that she wrote or had a hand in writing were really very solid cuts, and her take on the Winwood song was original and cool. While the pandemic was not a fun time for her and for all of us, this album was a Phoenix of sorts that rose from the ashes of two years of miserable times and shines brightly as a symbol of hope. Kudos to Eliza Neals for producing a fine new CD for all to enjoy! I highly recommend it

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 – 2 of 8 

imageHorojo Trio – Set the Record

Stony Plain Records – 2022

11 Tracks; 43 minutes

Holger Petersen’s Canadian Independent roots music record label, Stony Plains Records, is known for only focusing on truly top-notch musicians (including artists such as Ronnie Earl, Duke Robillard, Colin James and Monkey Junk). It’s not surprising that Horojo Trio was signed to that label, as each member of the trio is clearly extremely talented, and together they form quite the powerhouse group. After randomly jamming together at a charity event, they formed a band using the first two letters of each of their surnames and went on to win the overall best band award at the 2020 International Blues Challenge (a competition where the band’s guitarist was also selected to win the best guitarist award).

The band consists of singer/keyboardist Jeff Rogers, guitarist/singer JW-Jones, and drummer Jamie Holmes and, for their debut album, they joined with Dick Cooper and Steve Strongman to co-write all of the tracks. It opens with a very up-tempo blues-rock song, “Man of Steel”, and then leads into what they do best—some outstanding soul-blues numbers, with “A Little Bit Goes a Long Way” and “Set the Record Straight”. While all three are phenomenal musicians, it is Rogers’ vocals which are likely to grab the listener’s attention the most. His vocals are powerful, clear, charismatic, emotive and with a beautiful tone. The guitar and keyboard solos are tasteful throughout all of the tracks, and never overdone.

There are also some very clever lyrics on this album. For example, a one-night stand that led to a world of trouble leads to a very engaging story in “Set the Record Straight”, and in “Stay Crazy” the listener is encouraged not to be like those who “color inside the lines, always do what they are told…they do what’s expected…they wither on the vine.” In “Give and Take” a toxic relationship is cleverly described, noting “I call it a one-way street, you call it give and take…You give me part-time lovin’ and I’m here 24/7. The more I give the more you take.” Some excellent lyrics can also be found in “The Night”, which describes how “Midnight holds the answers, but it sure ain’t telling me…I’m looking for the lady that will make everything alright, who will take away my trouble and hep me find the light. But until then—my refuge is the night.”

Strict blues purists might be disappointed that the only classic slow blues on this album can be found in the middle section of the up-tempo “Real Deal” track, but anyone who appreciates a contemporary sound with excellent musicians and a very soulful singer will want to add Set the Record to their collection.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

imageThe Ed Palermo Big Band – I’ve Got News for You: The Music of Edgar Winter

Sky Cat Records SC211001

16 songs – 59 minutes

Most big-band leaders stick to pop, jazz or classical formats, but not alto saxophonist Ed Palermo, a world-class session player who spent four years touring with Afro-Cuban master Tito Puente. He made a big splash in the ‘80s when his orchestra turned Frank Zappa’s compositions into big-band material before doing the same for the Beatles, Todd Rundgren and then, in 2014, teamed with harmonica player Rob Paparozzi for Electric Butter, a well-received tribute to blues greats Paul Butterfield and Michael Bloomfield.

But Palermo’s always credited multi-instrumentalist Edgar Winter — who bridges blues, jazz fusion and rock – and the music he created when Ed was growing up on the Jersey Shore for providing the key that opened the door the unusual musical path he walks today. Even though Winter’s known as a rocker through such songs as “Frankenstein” and “Free Ride,” like Palermo, he’s a horn player who grew up listening to Cannonball Adderley and mixes media through music.

Neither of those songs are present in this collection. While rockers might be disappointed, blues fans can celebrate because this disc serves up a joyous collection of new Palermo arrangements of Winter tunes that delve deeply into blues, jazz and R&B, but interprets it in big-band format.

Ed’s 17-piece lineup includes sax players Cliff Lyons, Phil Chester, Bill Straub, Ben Kono (all of whom double on other instruments) and Barbara Cifelli, trumpet players Ronnie Buttacavoli, John Bailey and Steve Jankowski, trombonists Charley Gordon, Mike Boschen and Matt Ingram, keyboard players Bob Quaranta and Ted Kooshian, electric bassist Paul Adamy and percussionist Ray Marchica.

No effort of this magnitude would be complete without prominent guest stars, too – and they abound. Kim Davis, Vaneese Thomas, Deb Lyons, Keith Anthony Fluitt, Chrissi Poland, Carlos Murguia and Paparozzi all take turns at vocals with Robben Ford and Jimmy Leahy sitting in on guitars and Katie Jacoby on violin.

A brief horn flourish opens “I Hate Everybody,” a boogie culled from Johnny’s ’69 LP, Second Winter. Best known for his work with major Latin talents, Murguia’s at the mic and Leahy delivers a crisp, dynamic mid-tune solo that yields to Palermo’s horn runs to close. “Tobacco Road” is chockful of urban appeal . Delivered by Davis, the former lead singer in Chic, it features fretwork from Ford before yielding to “Peace Pipe,” which reinvents Edgar’s scat into a five-part horn solo that gives Cifelli and Kooshian space to shine.

Envisioned by Winter as a tune that Johnny Carson could use when introducing guests on the Tonight Show, “All Out” is a complex, minor key instrumental pleaser with plenty of twists and turns. It flows into “A Different Game,” which ascends into a different, horn-punctuated dimension as Poland describes a relationship from two divergent points of view. The sound quiets dramatically from the open as Fluitt soars on the familiar ballad, “Dyin’ to Live,” opening as a piano-accompanied ballad and slowly picking up intensity throughout.

The heat kicks up to high when Davis returns to deliver the medium-fast shuffle, “Jump Right Out,” before the mood hushes again with Lyons in command of “Entrance” – the title track of Winter’s debut LP, after an extended instrumental open. Things brighten again with Fluitt at the mic for “Where Have You Gone,” a powerful blues-jazz fusion, before Poland’s featured on both the minor-key “Rise to Fall” and “Fire and Ice,” a stop-time number with dazzling tempo changes and progressions that continue in “Hung Up” with Fluitt on vocals.

“Back in the Blues” cooks from the jump before yielding to “Re-Entrance,” which delivers a positive affirmation about treating each day as a new opportunity to succeed, before the set concludes with Thomas delivering a bluesy take on “You Are My Sunshine” and then powering through “I’ve Got News for You” in concert with Paparozzi.

There’s never a dull moment on this CD. It swings from the jump and takes the blues in directions it doesn’t usually go while remaining pretty faithful throughout. You’ll love it big time if your tastes run to jazz, too. If you’re an old-school traditionalist, however, the musical complexities that it presents might be a little jarring for your tender ears.

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 – 4 of 8 

imageLittle G Weevil – Live Acoustic Session

Hunnia Records

16 songs – 78 minutes

Two-time Blues Blast Music Award nominee Little G Weevil has spent much of his career creating thought-provoking and colorful cross-genre collaborations, with the blues at the heart of everything he does. His new release, Live Acoustic Session, sees him going back to his acoustic roots, with a collection of 16 songs, primarily self-written, all recorded in one day at SuperSize Recording Studio in Hungary in February 2021.

The opening track, “Keep Going”, sets out Weevil’s stall nicely, with its Hill Country one-chord drone, his foot stomps driving the hypnotic groove. It’s immediately apparent that producer Robert Zoltan Hunka and sound engineers Gabor Halasz and Dexter have captured a gloriously warm, booming, live sound, not dissimilar to Muddy’s classic 1964 Folk Singer album.

Weevil’s voice perfectly suits the acoustic arrangements, from the Delta chant of “Keep Going” to the raucous interpretation of John Lee Hooker’s “Roll And Boogie” that closes the album. He accompanies himself on guitar, and his easy mastery of the instrument is a constant delight, from the Piedmont finger picking blues of “Dad’s Story” to the Mississippi Delta blues of “Braggin” The songs are tightly crafted and sound authentically aged, with Weevil’s tunes sitting effortlessly beside R.L. Burnside’s “Poor Black Mattie” or the traditional “Early In The Morning” and “Casey Jones”, even when he addresses such modern topics as Lance Armstrong’s drug-fuelled cheating (in “Fastest Man”), the autobiographical “Going Back South” or on the Dylan-esque lyrical opaqueness of “When The King Was Told.”

Weevil has previously released some tracks on display here, such as “Real Men Don’t Dance”, in a full band setting, and it is fun to hear them stripped back to their essence. Other songs, such as “When The King Was Told”, “Place A Dollar In My Hand” and “Apple Picker” have been released as solo recordings on albums such as 2016’s Three Chords Too Many, but they bear re-hearing in the context of Live Acoustic Session.

If you can’t get out to see Weevil perform an acoustic set near you, Live Acoustic Session is the next best thing, with superb performances of smart songs, often with short spoken introductions, all captured with pristine production. A very enjoyable release.

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 – 5 of 8 

imageTim Gartland – Truth

Taste Good Music

12 songs time – 45:40

Ohio native and now Nashville transplant Tim Gartland is a singer-songwriter and harmonica player to be reckoned with. His nicely gruff rustic voice is well suited to his songs which he wrote or co-wrote. His harmonica sound varies from blues to country-ish to jazz inflected ala the late great Belgian jazz harmonica player Toots Thielemans. Not on a par with Toots, but he manages to invoke some of his feel. The songs here are an amalgamation of genres including blues, R&B and jazz among others. Tim has assembled a small but mighty contingent of players to back him on this his fifth solo album. The result is a well conceived collection of songs.

“Don’t Mess With My Heart” introduces the listener to Tom’s nicely gruff pipes that exhibit the better side of the “cookie cutter” macho deep voiced country singer. Country blends with R&B on this nifty number that features a brief taste of Mr. Gartland’s harmonica skills. Robert Frahm’s guitar shines here as elsewhere throughout the recording. Tim’s harp gets real bluesy on the funky “Leave Well Enough Alone”, a nice compliment to Frahm’s guitar. Wendy Moten’s backing vocals add depth and warmth to this song and during the proceedings. Kevin Mckendree’s electric piano adds to the mix and supports Tim’s tasty harmonica riffs on “The Thing About The Truth”. Like the man says-“Facts are facts”.

Robert Frahm visits Professor Longhair’s piano styling’s on the refreshingly upbeat “Cloudy With A chance Of The Blues”. The nicely laid back “Outta Sight Outa Mind” is vaguely reminiscent of Mose Allison. Mr. Frahm contributes fiery guitar solo. Country music is explored on “One Love Away” and “Love Knocks Once”. Kevin Mckendree adds to the atmosphere with electric piano and organ on the former and acoustic piano and organ on the latter. Needless to say there is nicely done harp on both tunes. “Pause” alludes to stereo equipment as an analogy for taking a break from a relationship…”Just press pause”. The funky side of New Orleans funk is righteously displayed on “Probably Something” largely due to Kevin Mckendree’s Fess style piano.

Ray Desilvis Brings his acoustic slide guitar to intertwine with Kenneth Blevins’ shuffle drumming and Mckendree’s “tinkly” piano on the swampy blues of “Wish I Could Go Back”. What a soothing mellow, swinging groove the guys bring to “Mind Your Own Business”. More fine solos from Kevin Mckendree on piano and Robert Frahm on guitar don’t hurt one little bit. All players get a chance to display their soloing skills on the instrumental “Save Sammy Some” with its’ warm summer day vibe.

Tim Gartland has surrounded himself with a solid group of musicians that compliment the well crafted original songs. The ever present bass player Steve Mackey and percussionist Bryan Brock bolster rhythms quite nicely. Spot on songwriting along with well arranged music, make for one satisfying mix of music. All genre elements add to this hearty musical stew. Be the first on your block to snatch this one up.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

imageMichael van Merwyk – Blue River Rising

Timezone Records – 2021

14 Tracks; 54 minutes

Although German guitarist/singer/songwriter Michael van Merwyk has released thirteen albums, he is not particularly well-known in the United States. However, those who listen to his latest release, Blue River Rising, are sure to become new fans. van Merwyk is an excellent singer, with a rich tone to his powerful voice. His songs are accompanied very simply by his dobro and the tasteful accompaniment of Gerd Gorke’s harmonica. In the liner notes he explains that there was no real production involved, and each track was recorded on the first take, leading to a very authentic sound.

Liner notes also indicate that during the seemingly endless lockdown of COVID many songs popped into his head including “new songs that desperately needed to be written.” This collection of mainly original tracks assures the listeners that they are not alone in their struggles. For example, ‘Keep Sinking” notes “I’m almost level to the ground and I just keep sinking,” and “Heal My Wounds” reveals “Night is falling–here comes the pain–heal my wounds.” However, the songs also offer hope, reminding the listener to “never give up on your dreams–things aren’t as bad as they seem” and “when things don’t go as they should, remember that the blues will do your heart good.”

The only fault some might find is that this album does not contain a wide variety of tempos or musical styles. However, those who appreciate simple, authentic-sounding roots/blues music performed by excellent musicians will clearly appreciate this album. van Merwyk wrote “if you feel a little better after you took a listen–well, I’ve done a good job.” It seems clear that he has done a good job!

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


 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8 

imageJerome Pietri – Fishing in the Rain

Phoebus Records 2021

10 Tracks; 48 Minutes

There is little available on the Internet regarding Jerome Pietri, although it notes that he is from “Mississippi, Corsica and the volcanoes of the Auvergne,” and that this album is recorded in the West Indies and in France. It is also noted that since the age of 15 he has had “one foot in the blues and the other in rock,” which is clearly evident in this album, leaning more heavily toward the rock end. The album contains a wide variety of tempos, fast rock, shuffles, boogie-woogie and a slow ballad.

All songs are originals, with the exception of a ‘bluesier’ and more guitar-heavy version of “Money” (by Pink Floyd). In addition, “Collagen Woman” is clearly a parody of “American Woman” (by the Guess Who), changing only the lyrics. Pietri is clearly a very talented guitarist and is accompanied by accomplished musicians on this album. Some of the best moments are the guitar solos in “Monkey on my Back,” “Money,” and “Trophy,” and the backing vocals by Fabienne Della Moniqua on “Plastic Island”. Pietri’s vocals have character and are good for storytelling, but listeners should not expect an extensive range or impressive runs from him. While heavy on blues-rock, Fishing in the Rain contains one boogie-woogie number, reminiscent of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and one clear blues number, “Fishing in the Rain”.

The cover art shows a guitarist playing in highly polluted waters, and the album contains a quote thanking the marine wildlife for continued inspiration and shaming those “who pollute the oceans and the earth for their own profit.” It seems very likely that some songs, like “Plastic Island” likely contain very meaningful messages; however, the lyrics on several of the tracks are somewhat difficult to hear and unfortunately a written version is not contained in the album or available on the Internet. This was particularly disappointing for “Collagen Woman,” as the lyrics which are clear, (“Collagen Woman, you’ll never make me feel, Collagen Woman, nothing about you is real…everything about you is a fake”) sound clever and intriguing.

Overall, this is an enjoyable, interesting, mainly blues-rock album performed by excellent musicians.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 8 

imageThe Clara Rose Band and Guests – Live LIVE Love


CD: 12 Songs, 62 Minutes

Styles: Ensemble Blues, Live Album, Contemporary Electric and Acoustic Blues

After the happy hangover of New Year’s Day, the va-va-voom of Valentine’s Day, and March 17, when everybody’s Irish, you know what we need? Easter, to counter winter’s doom and gloom for the rest of the year (or at least December). You know what we also need? The latest release from Dublin’s Clara Rose Band, along with some special guests. It’s called Live LIVE Love, (as in “live well” and “live album,” respectively). Performed on two stages at two locations (Arthur’s Blues and Jazz Club in Dublin and The Garage Theatre in Monaghan), it features over an hour of traditional and contemporary ensemble blues.

You’ll marvel at the musicianship of everyone involved, but as soon as you hear Clara Rose sing, you’ll think, “Whoa. . .” Is she Whitney Houston or even Bonnie Raitt? No, but listen as she launches into “Broken Woman Blues.” On nary a note does she let go of our heartstrings or our ears, and that final “blues,” with gorgeous harmony, will give you chills. Her speaking voice presents a husky brogue, but her singing sounds as if it hails somewhere from the southern US – Louisiana, maybe. On original numbers like the one I just mentioned, as well as covers like Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Big Mama Thornton’s “Ball & Chain,” she and her fellows prove that there’s nothing like a mighty set of pipes to resurrect the lowest spirits.

Clara holds a Bachelor of Music from N.U.I Maynooth and also spent 2 years in the Irish World Academy of Music & Dance while gaining a Music Therapy Masters from The University of Limerick. She also spends half an hour each day polishing her All Ireland Medal for Sean-Nós singing. She’s a featured artist on the 2013 album release from Irish blues harmonica legend Don Baker, entitled My Songs, My Friends. Clara Rose features alongside Sinead O’ Connor, Finbar Furey, Mick Pyro, Liam O’ Maonlai, Brian Kennedy and Paddy Casey among others.

With our leading lady (vocals and guitar) are Darragh Slacke, Ed Deane, Darragh O’Kelly, James Delaney, Colm O’Hara, Bill Blackmore, Cathal Roche, Tony McManus, Garvan Gallagher, Kevin Malone, and Gavin Taylor.

Another great original tune (there are five out of twelve) is number three, “Throw the Dice.” It presents the more robust side of Clara Rose’s voice as opposed to the pained and yearning side. Everyone’s in top form here, especially Darragh O’Kelly on piano and Darragh Slacke on electric guitar. It combines a sizzling shredder solo and wry lyrics with a beat reminiscent of ragtime. Imagine it being played in a Dublin pub at the end of the 19th century. It wouldn’t be out of place. Neither would downing a pint of Guinness or hitting the dance floor – or both at once.

When it comes to female musicians, sometimes people focus on their looks and vocal prowess more than their instrumental skills, but Clara Rose delivers on all fronts. Witness how she powers through “Jolene,” turning an earnest plea into a borderline murder threat. Her softer side emerges on “Foxtrot Blues” and “I’d Rather Go Blind” before she exits the stage “Like a Rolling Stone.” Her vibe is one part whiskey, one part roses, and one part Gaelic grit.

What to make of Clara Rose’s latest? If you live the blues, you’ll love this live album!

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

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