Issue 16-17 April 28, 2022


Cover photo © Austin Britt

 In This Issue 

Mark Thompson has our feature interview with young Bluesman Eddie 9V. We have eight Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Rosedale Junction, Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters, Gina Sicilia, Albert Castiglia, Doug MacLeod, Hurricane Ruth, Professor Louie and the Crowatrix and Bobby Gentilo. Scroll down and check it out!

 From The Editor’s Desk 


Hey Blues Fans,

The 2022 Blues Blast Music Awards submissions are open until May 31st, 2022. This is a reminder to get your Blues album submitted for the nominators as soon as possible. The earlier the better for their consideration

Submission fee is $50 until April 30 and increases to $75 starting on May 1st. The submission fee increase to $100 starting on May 15th so hurry and get you music to the nominators. Albums released between June 1, 2021 and May 31st, 2022 are eligible. Be sure to check out the 10 new nomination categories we added for this years awards.

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

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser


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 – Eddie 9V 

imageBorn in a small town near Atlanta, Brooks Mason has been hard at work in the music business for the last decade. At one point, he felt it was time to embrace the music that he loved. With the change in musical directions came a new persona, Eddie 9V, a singer and guitarist with roots running deep into the classic blues and soul sounds.

In 2019, Eddie was living with his grandparents. He was using an old typewriter to write letters to send to record labels, figuring an old-school letter might attract more attention than one more e-mail message. Two of the letters sent, one to Bruce Iglauer at Alligator Records, and the other to Ruf Records, eventually yielded some results.

“I figured they were two of the biggest labels, so why not! Bruce did not like my first release, Left My Soul In Memphis, because the sound was too dirty. Thomas Ruf didn’t want to put that album out either, but he was interested in coning to see me live. So in March, 2020, he flew in to see us at Blind Willie’s Blues Club in Atlanta. He enjoyed the show, saw we were a good blues band. The next day we were talking about a record deal. That is how we met.

“So far, the relationship has been good. There are some things I would do differently. I like to work on the basis that I release a lot of music. These days people seem to have a short attention span. My goal is to have an EP and an album out every year. Thomas is more old-school, looking for an album every two years.”

The second album, Little Black Flies, certainly lives up to the promise Ruf saw that night at Blind Willie’s. The album captures Eddie 9V’s captivating synthesis of blues and soul music, and all points in-between. It helped him get a nomination for a 2021 Blues Blast Music Award in the Sean Costello Rising Star category, along with another nomination for a 2022 Blues Music Award in the Traditional Blues Album category. It also hit #5 on the Billboard Blues chart.

“It’s funny, the week Little Black Flies came out, I was pissed because the Black Keys also released their new album, their first blues in ten years. I was bummed that they threw off the charts, but I was impressed that my record went that high. It was great to start getting text messages from some of my heroes like Luther Dickinson, Kirk Fletcher, and Joe Bonamassa.”

Like many musicians, Eddie started his musical career at a young age, getting his first guitar at the age of six, with the help of his father.

“My Dad actually open tuned it, not knowing that is what the old blues players used to do. It was a lot easier to learn to play the instrument when you just have to move one finger around to change chords. I didn’t get serious about the guitar until I was 13 years old. I had been a drummer in a couple of bands by then, playing rock & roll and metal. My buddy hit me up about an opportunity to open for his dad’s band at a diner in Georgia. I had about a week to learn to play five songs on guitar, “Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis Presley, some Creedence Clearwater Revival tunes.

“The place was packed, probably more than 150 people. It was one of the greatest feelings I have ever had, of having that microphone in front of me, getting to talk to people, and seeing what a guitar solo does to a crowd. From that point, I was hooked on being an entertainer, making people happy by playing the guitar and singing. The club was called Chevy’s, and had a checkerboard floor.

img border=”0″ src=”” width=”294″ height=”300″ alt=”image” align=”right” hspace=”12″ vspace=”6″>“That’s where I learned to play. My uncle taught me how to talk in front of people at our family parties down on the farm my grandparents had, where I eventually moved. Then I did open mic nights and other things you have to do to get started. Eventually we got a manager who impressed upon us the wisdom of moving beyond being a cover band, encouraging us to write original material.

“Originally we were called the Georgia Flood. Then we found out there was a Canadian actress named Georgia Flood, so we changed our name to PREACHERVAN, slowly morphing into an Indy Alternative Rock band, touring the country. We were about as successful as a small independent band can be. But I starting getting burned out, making $50 a night for the band, playing original music in clubs for the door.”

So Eddie decided to come back to the blues, always knowing that if the Indy rock career didn’t pan out, he could go back to the music he had always loved. His first effort, the Brooks Mason Blues Band, came about as a side project to make some extra cash when he was not out touring. Surprisingly, the band quickly was packing clubs in the greater Atlanta area.

“That was around the time my first album came out. I kept pursuing it because I knew it would get more traction than the other band. It was kind of funny, that my manager at the time was very upset that I was focusing on blues music. That was when I decided to change my name to Eddie 9V. We were driving on our tours, we would kiddingly try to come up with mobster-like names for each other. The guys called me Eddie. Then I thought about the batteries that get used in guitar pedals, and that is how I came up with Eddie 9V. In my opinion, that name rung a bit better than the Brooks Mason one.

“The first important mentor I had was Tinsley Ellis. He loved the first record, and tried to help me get in touch with Bruce Iglauer, because Tinsley records for Alligator Records. I owe him a lot for all of the coaching he gave me. He really wanted me to keep the Brooks Mason Blues Band name, which does have a nice ring to it. I feel you need to have a name that sticks out. And I didn’t want to categorize myself as just as blues band, because I am influenced by the classic soul music from the 1950s through the 1970s era.

“Now we are just making music. I’ve got a bad-ass booking agent, Crossover Touring, that books artists like Billy Strings and Amy Helm. He is getting us bookings all over the country, like the San Diego Blues Festival and Suwannee Rising. It’s been a hell of a climb in the last year.”

When it comes to influences on his guitar style, Eddie is quick to mention legends like Otis Rush and Albert Collins. But there is another player that captured his imagination, an influential guitarist who is often overlooked.

“Michael Bloomfield was my first guitar idol. I grew up listening to Metallica, and whatever was on Top 40 Classic radio. I was also a huge fan of the Beatles, who taught me a lot about harmony. The great thing was I grew up in the YouTube era. I was watching the Beatles videos, which lead me to the Dirty Mac, doing “Yer Blues,” from the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus. The next suggestion on the video was Howlin’ Wolf at the Newport Folk Festival. So I just kept digging deeper.

image“Eventually I got to the Paul Butterfield Blues Band at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. I don’t know why, but Bloomfield was the first guitarist whose playing knocked me out, especially the stuff he did with the Electric Flag. I went ape shit over him. One of the first vinyl albums I ever bought was Super Session, that had Bloomfield with Al Kooper and Stephen Stills. He is very underrated, and had a very sad life. There’s a biography by David Dann, Guitar King, that is amazing. He was a killer player with a style unlike anyone else. If he didn’t have battles with the demons in his head, and had gone on tour with Bob Dylan, he would have been more recognized.

“He is the reason that I bought a Gibson Le Paul Gold Top guitar. There is a great video of him playing one on YouTube. No one put that kind of passion into a guitar, and propelled the guitar as much as Bloomfield did in America. Before Eric Clapton, everybody was talking about Bloomfield. My idols are always changing, but the first ones that helped me develop my sound and style interestingly all played Gold Top guitars with P-90 pick-ups. One was Sean Costello from Atlanta, Bloomfield, and early Freddie King. They were what I listened to in my wood-shedding years of learning to play guitar. There’s no denying it, I was probably into Sean a hair more than Bloomfield. But I have studied both of them, watching every video I could find.”

When he hit the road, Eddie typically took four guitars and a host of effect pedals. But he has come around to a different approach to playing live.

“I got hooked up with the Custom Shop at Fender Guitars. They gave me a Custom Esquire. I had an awesome Stratocaster, and been through several Telecasters. Not many people have a cool Esquire! It plays and sounds amazing. So now I take two guitars on the road. The other one is a Strat for playing the Elmore James style slide stuff, like “She’s Got Some Money,” which gives me a sound like Ry Cooder on slide. Then I use an old Music Man amplifier that one of my first fans gave me, a cable, and a guitar pick. That is it. I don’t use pedals these days, unless I need one to get a 50 watt amplifier to break up.”

As a songwriter, Eddie often takes a free-flowing approach to coming up with new material. In large part, his latest record was done on the fly in the studio. It takes real talent to create such riveting material off the cuff.

“The three songs that were really thought out were “Little Black Flies,” “3AM In Chicago,” and “Puttin’ The Kids To Bed”. For “Miss James.” which is a cover, I had some of the lyrics and made up the rest on the spot. It all goes back to my Uncle Brian playing guitar in the family band on my grandparents farm. He would make up lyrics to all of these songs, and playing these four hour blues gigs where I didn’t know the lyrics to all of these songs, so I would make them up.

“We used to play this joint called Fat Matt’s Rib Shack in Atlanta. We would be there on Wednesday nights, a 4 ½ hour gig. You can only play so many shuffles. So I made up lyrics, even going as far as asking the audience to give a topic to sing about. These days, with our booking agency stepping up the game, we are doing 45 minute shows, maybe an hour max, and the shows are more structured. So you have to get up there, crushing it, and get as many fans as you can in a 45 minute window. I’ve noticed that our best shows are about an hour long. The band can give it’s all, give 100%, and have an amazing set.”

Eddie wants to be clear that he doesn’t consider his music to be straight blues. As mentioned, there is plenty of soul in his music, as well as some New Orleans-style sounds.

image“There was a guy who saw us at Suwannee who described us as Otis Redding soul-filled funk. While we jam, I definitely don’t want to be labeled as a jam band. There is quite a difference. So we just throw it all together and call our music retro soul. When people come to our shows, we want them to leave saying those guys play good, old fashion great music. We recently did a show n Savannah, Georgia opening for Cedric Burnside. It was the closing party for a festival with all of the elite society people were there for a sit down show. The festival had run for sixteen days. The sound guys told us that during that time, they had not seen people get up and dance like they did at our show. They had to move tables and chairs away from the front of the stage. There had to be 80-100 people dancing. Our music is easy to understand and dance to.”

As you might expect, Eddie listens to a lot of music every day, especially since his girlfriend gifted him with a pair of Beats for his birthday. He still listens to favorites like Howlin’ Wolf live at Alice’s Revisited, but other sounds are holding his interest these days.

“Lately I have been entrenched in the older soul music, like the stuff from Muscle Shoals and the Hi Studio in Memphis. It would be great to take some of those great songwriting and horn arrangements, and add a touch of blues to it. So I am listening to O.V. Wright, Otis Clay, Syl Johnson, James Carr, Don Covay and Lou Rawls. If they are from Memphis, I’m already going to like them.”

Already a touring veteran, Eddie is grateful for the changes that he has experienced since he signed with Crossover Touring.

“Morale certainly has gone up. And we now get free beer. I have been in bands where we had one couch and the floor, where we slept in a triangle with everybody’s feet touching. Now we are getting better gigs and nicer hotels. Being on the road is our bread and butter, I have been doing it since I was 15 years old. We still have to make some long hauls from one gig to the next, but things have definitely improved.”

The members of the current band include Eddie 9V on vocals along with Lane Kelly on bass, who is Eddie’s brother. He also produces and mixes the records. Handling the drums is Seef Anam, the latest in a long line of drummers. Noah Sills is on saxophone and an integral part of the band, Chad Mason, on keyboards.

The bookings keep coming in, so the focus will remain on touring on the strength of Little Black Flies for the foreseeable future. But when the timing is right, Eddie will be ready for his next project.

“I can’t lie to you. I have probably 30 songs on my Dropbox that I could put out right now. We also just got new management, 7S Management, that also handles Galactic, the Allman Betts Band, and Nathaniel Rateliff, among others. We are listening to them about the process and when we should put something out.

“My advice to people is simple – don’t sleep on the new talent, whether it is blues, roots music, or Americana. I see complaints from people saying nobody plays good music any more. Get on YouTube or go down to the local club to find the new artists trying to preserve the music. People like Gabe Stillman, Jon Hay from John Nemeth’s band, Ben Levin, and Max Kaplan, they have a lot on their shoulders and are creating great music. I have only been alive for 25 years, but I have never seen so many young folks making a splash at the same time.”

Visit Eddie’s website 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 8 


imageRosedale Junction – The Last Rodeo

Center Block Records

9 songs, 1 hour, 3 minutes

The great thing about music is that talent doesn’t care if you come to it early in life or late in life. Howlin’ Wolf was in his 40’s when he really broke through. So was Wes Montgomery and Sharron Jones and many others. Boston based Rosedale Junction is led by guitarist songwriter Toby Soriero, a long time professional player with a day job in “corporate America.” In 2020 Soriero ditched the day job and the next year released the hard charging Junction debut Stompin’ On the Front Porch. Follow up The Last Rodeo retains Stompin’s collaborative spirit, including 4 different singers. However, where Stompin’ was a pretty pure Blues Rock blast, Rodeo is an introspective cycle of 60’s atmospheric ballad Rock performed with clarity and fidelity to the source inspiration.

Rosedale Junction is a guitar band. Leader Soriero is a clean guitarist with a big well sculpted tone reminiscent of David Gilmore. This tone perfectly fits the Pink Floyd vibe of many of the tracks. Singers Dgiovahni Denize, Kristin Lawler, Sam Tuten, and Rachel Gavaletz all handle lead vocal duties with Lawler and Tyra Juliet offering some background vocal support. Soriero lays in the bass on all tracks and is accompanied by a core rhythm section of Roger Smith on various keys and Jim Riley on drums. Adding flourishes on various tracks are Andy Ellison on a beautifully keening pedal steel guitar, Vito Gutilla lush-ing things up with violin, Steve Stizzo adding omp-ah on accordion and horn flashes from Matt Soriero and Mark Morgan.

Toby Soriero is not just a guitarist but he is also a prolific songwriter. 8 of the 9 tunes on this record are originals. With a clear writing voice, Soriero tells stories, through his various vocalists, about love, aging and the daily drama of life. The lilting Country ballad “Little Long Haired Angel” features Sam Tuten in a plain spoken warble and Stizzo’s accordion drones channeling Flaco Jimenez. The dark thrum of “Goin’ Down to Walpole” featuring Tuten and Guitilla’s mournful violin is about the maximum security prison in Walpole, MA that stands gray in a large patch of median land between the north and south bound lanes of I95.

In spite of Soriero’s strong songwriting voice, the centerpiece of The Last Rodeo is an 11 minute rendition of the Felton Robinson classic “Loan Me a Dime.” Featuring educator and mezzo-soprano vocalist Kristin Lawler, this version of “Loan Me” is in direct lineage to Boz Scaggs’s 1969 version. Junction’s version replaces the Duane Allmen fueled fire and mania of Scaggs’ version with a brooding introspection. The extended guitar solos highlight Soriero’s clean, well manicured Clapton and Gilmore style.

The Last Rodeo is a solid cathartic listen. It’s the kind of music you put on when you want to ruminate about the difficult times we are living in, maybe with some brown liquid in a rocks glass. It is also a pretty stark departure from the bruising brawling bravado of the band’s 2021 debut. It’s exciting when a band can keep their sound moving and changing. It makes one that much more interested to hear the next chapter.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8 

imageRonnie Earl & The Broadcasters – Mercy Me

Stony Plain Records SPCD1449

12 songs – 80 minutes

One of the most sensitive, stylish guitarists ever to play the blues, New England-based fret master Ronnie Earl outdoes himself on his latest disc, delivering an 80-minute, emotion-packed masterclass of soul- and jazz-infused pleasers that clearly demonstrate why critics and peers alike put him on a pedestal all his own.

A native New Yorker and son of Holocaust survivors who’s been dazzling fans for five decades, it’s hard to believe today that Ronnie’s a late bloomer to the instrument, but it’s true. He picked up the guitar for the first time in the early ‘70s after enrolling in Boston University and becoming enthralled with the local blues scene.

An exceptionally quick learner, he was born Ronald Earl Horvath and began his recording career alongside future Asleep at the Wheel guitarist Johnny Nicholas in 1977 shortly before becoming a founding member of Sugar Ray & the Bluetones before replacing Duke Robillard in another long-running Rhode Island band, Roomful of Blues. During his eight-year run with that group, he also recorded under his birth name with Windy City giants Sunnyland Slim and Big Walter Horton, and he adopted his stage name as a tribute to Earl Hooker.

A four-time Blues Music Association honoree as guitarist of the year and 19-time nominee, Earl released a couple of solo LPs before going on his own in 1987, and he’s been fronting his own band, the Broadcasters, ever since. The 28th album in his catalog — half of which have been released on the Stony Plain label, it’s a follow-up to his internationally acclaimed 2020 effort, Rise Up, which was recorded in his suburban Boston home while he was recovering from back surgery.

Ronnie’s backed here by his regular band, which includes Dave Limina on piano and Hammond B3 organ, Forrest Padgett on drums, Paul Kochanski on bass and vocals from the dynamic Diane Blue. The lineup also includes guest appearances from former Bluetones bandmate and perennial BMA nominee Anthony Geraci (keys), former Roomful and current Victor Wainwright & the Train baritone saxophonist Mark Earley with Mario Perrett on tenor sax, Peter Ward on guitar and Tess Ferraiolo on vocals.

Earl cuts like a knife with a stinging, single-note flourish before Diane joins in to deliver a seven-minute tribute to Muddy Waters by covering his 1953 classic, “Blow Wind Blow.” Delivered as a medium-paced shuffle, Limina and Geraci shine on the 88s before Ronnie sears, flying precisely across the strings for a dazzling, three-minute, seemingly effortless solo that’s minimal of notes but maximum in feel.

Lumina’s keys open before Ronnie pays homage to John Coltrane, another of his heroes, with a quiet, but stellar instrumental take of his 1963 opus, “Alabama,” the theme of which – racism – still infests the U.S. today. It flows sonically into a much brighter themed number, the slow-as-molasses, barebones acoustic original “Blues for Ruthie Foster,” which gives Ward plenty of space to shine, too, before yielding to “Soul Searching,” an R&B number that served as the title track of an album Earl released on Black Top in 1988.

“Blues for Duke Robillard,” another interesting original ballad, wends its way at a pleasant snail’s pace for almost eight minutes before things heat up with Diane at the mic to cover “Only You Know and I Know,” a hit for Dave Mason in 1970 and then an even bigger one for Delaney & Bonnie a year later. It features workouts from the horns before Earl takes charge as only he can.

Anthony and Ronnie shine six minutes of soulful light on a world plagued with troubles and offer space for introspection with a “A Prayer for Tomorrow,” a Geraci composition, before things come to a medium boil in “Dave’s Groove.” Co-written with Limina, it swings from the hip with another extended, never boring guitar solo – a feel that continues in Percy Mayfield’s “Please Send Me Someone to Love.” Blue’s vocals are as sweet as Earl’s fretwork in an unhurried 10-plus-minute workout with around-the-board solos.

Two more treasures — “Coal Train Blues,” a gentle shuffle, and “The Sun Shines Brightly,” an eight-minute ballad that borrows lyrically from Elmore James’ “The Sky Is Crying” – follow before Ronnie, Diane and Tess take you to church and deliver the Jackie Wilson standard, “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher,” to close.

Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters have delivered sensational albums across the past 35 years, but it’s going to be extremely difficult to top this one. Pick this one up. You’ll be glad you did!

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 – 3 of 8 

imageGina Sicilia – Unchange

VizzTone Label Group VT-GS07

10 songs – 42 minutes

A honey-toned alto powerhouse who’s now based in Nashville, Gina Sicilia displays old-school sensibilities on her latest disc in her budding partnership with producer Colin Linden. It’s a relaxed, unhurried effort that delivers a hint of gospel and bountiful emotion in minimal settings throughout.

Originally from Newtown, Pa., Gina’s been a show-stopper since age six, when she started appearing in local talent shows. A gifted tunesmith, she composed her first tune at age 12 shortly before falling in love with soul and the blues. Her first release, the EP Allow Me to Confess, was recorded with musicians she’d worked with at jams at Warmdaddy’s in Philadelphia and earned her a best new artist nomination in the 2008 Blues Music Awards.

Her follow-up, Hey Sugar, met with equal success, climbing into the Top Ten on the Living Blues Radio Chart and soaring a nomination in the Blues Blast Music Awards, too. She’s raised the bar on each of the seven releases that followed prior to this own, teaming with a handful of the best producers in the business, including Grammy nominee Cody Dickinson, who was at the controls for her 2020 effort, Love Me Madly.

Captured and mixed by Linden at Pinhead Recorders in Music City, this disc finds Gina at the absolute top of her game. A perennial nominee for top honors in his native Canada as a performer, producer and songwriter, Colin handles guitar throughout with backing from bassist Johnny Dymond and drummer Bryan Owings and augmentation from keyboard players Kevin McKendree and Janice Powers on three tracks and backing vocals from sisters Ann and Regina McCrary on two others.

All ten of the tunes here – two originals penned by Sicilia, four by Linden and three covers – flow seamlessly into a cohesive package with timeless appeal. Fair warning, though: The music is uplifting despite conveying somber messages that mirror the times we live in throughout.

A simple six-string run opens the ballad, “Healing Time,” before Gina’s melismatic voice explodes atop a reserved shuffle and describes the pain of life after the permanent departure of a lover and loss of everything worth living for. The only thing left, she says, is the need to pull herself back together again. Colin’s simple fretwork to the title tune, “Unchange,” offers up sweet relief from suffering as Sicilia comes to terms with the reality that she can’t undo past events.

The feeling continues and picks up steam with dynamic cover of gospel giant Shirley Caesar’s “How Far Am I From Canaan” before a tasty take of Reverend Gary Davis’ familiar “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” which is reinterpreted with a basic Chicago blues feel. Linden’s “Let’s Set the World on Fire,” which follows and is one of the strongest tunes in the set, is an uplifting ballad that opens with images of dark clouds overhead, but delivers an optimistic message that the singer and the man she loves will soon reunite.

“Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor,” a standard that traces back to the 1800s, is up next before more unhurried, fingerpicked sweetness as Gina professes love for a suitor in the ballad “Valentine.” It yields for “Don’t Be Afraid to Be Wrong,” an original blues with hokum sensibilities that advises never to hesitate to let your conscience be your guide in whatever you do.

The closing numbers – both of which were written by Sicilia – are upbeat mood changers from the gloom that preceded them. “One Last Tender Moment,” a saccharine-sweet tune perfect for dancing the two-step, requests a memory to carry with her forever of the love that she and her man share before the optimistic ballad, “There’s a Bright Side Somewhere,” leaves you with optimism and a smile.

Climb aboard the roller-coaster of emotion expressed in Unchange. The journey will probably feel longer than the 42 minutes it takes and you’ll be a little drained when it’s done, but buy a ticket. It’s a satisfying ride from beginning to end.

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 

imageAlbert Castiglia – I Got Love

Gulf Coast Records

11 tracks

The last two years have been a hard road to hoe for gigging musicians and Albert Castiglia has been hoeing that road. The pandemic put a crimp on many an artist’s cash flows and lifestyles. The darkness of the last two years followed by the eventual triumph that was heralded by the light at the ed of the tunnel are the inspiration for this album; it’s release is a cathartic act for Castiglia. A truly fine effort here by Castigla, he gives us ten great new cuts and an excellent cover to savor. Produced by Mike Zito and issued on his Gulf Coast Record label, Albert is touring with Zito as The Blood Brothers Tour this Spring to help promote this new release.

Supporting Castiglia are three fine musicians. Albert handles the guitar and lead vocals on all tracks. Justine Tompkins plays bass and backs up on vocals as does Ephraim Lowell who also plays drums. B3 and piano are played by Lewis Stephens. The quartet is tight and give outstanding performances from top to bottom. If you want high energy, rocking blues, then look no further.

The title track “I Got Love” gets things kicked off. A rousing blues rocker, Castiglia does what he does best here – play damn good music. Castiglia lets loose with a big guitar solo that is sure to please. Exuding positive energy, Albert gets off to a fantastic start here. He follows that with “Don’t Pray With The Devil” with a bit of a funky groove going, a driving and cool beat. Castiglia howls out the vocals as he warns of falling in with the dark side. Bi, poignant licks abound here- Castiglia never takes any prisoners. Next is “Burning Bridges,” a song of break up and getting out of a bad relationship. Castiglia offers a solid performance once again as he sings and plays with a cool vibe. “Sanctuary” is next where Castiglia turns down the heat a bit as he sings that he’s found his sanctuary in his life’s partner. A restrained guitar solo adds to the piece nicely. “Double Down” follows, a slick and bouncing blues cut about people doubling down the lies they tell to cover the lies they previously told. Another sweet guitar solo is offered up here. The B3 accompaniment is solid throughout but it’s especially cool here. “Long Haul Daddy” is a driving and wailing cut with a massive guitar introduction. Traditional blues with an AAB format to the song, Castiglia lights things up with more outstanding ax work. The band plays into it with some response to Albert’s calls and it’s a fun cut from start to finish. Two big solos and some honkytonk piano make this even better.

Next up is “What’s Wrong With You?” where Castiglia asks his woman what the title says because she’s never satisfied no matter what good things he does for her. It’s got a sweet groove and Albert once again nails the solos. Chicago’s Melvin Taylor wrote the next cut, “Depression Blues.” He’s probably one of the most underappreciated artists in the Windy City, but Albert pays him some respect with this fine, funky cover. Castiglia lets it all loose as he solos, but he’s got some air and breathing room in his licks even when he tearing it up. “Freedomland” follows, a sarcastic song telling how we’re down for the count here in America (Freedomland). With all our riches many were hurt badly by the pandemic and Albert writes and sings about the struggle here. It is a vibrant and driving song with harsh vocals and strident guitar – really well-done. In “You Don’t Know Hell,” Castiglia sings about life today still being better than the not-so-good old days. He tells people they don’t know hell if they think this is bad. Albert concludes with “Take My Name Out Of Your Mouth” is a slower, traditional Chicago blues that Castiglia delivers with emotion and feeling. More huge guitar solos abound as he tells people who just like to scream and shout to take his name out of their mouths before they talk badly about him.

I’ve been following Albert since the start of his career, and he never ceases to amaze me with the drive and energy he exudes in his music. He survived the Pandemic and he expresses that gratitude in his work here. From his early days at the feet of Junior Wells to his now well-established solo career, this Miami native and Blues Music award nominee raises the bar with each new release. I do not hesitate to recommend this CD to all blues fans – this is Albert Castiglia doing what he loves to do and doing what no one else can. Go get this CD now; you won’t regret 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 – 5 of 8 

imageDoug MacLeod – A Soul To Claim

Reference Recordings

12 tracks

After many visits to Memphis with the Blues Music Awards and other work with the Blues Foundation, Doug MacLeod decided to move to that area and settle down in Tennessee, giving up the West Coast for a home on the Mississippi River. This album is inspired by his move and his new home. It is a fine set of a dozen new songs highlighting the grand story telling abilities of this master blues man. No one can weave a story line into melodic lyrics and a fine musical accompaniment like Mssr. MacLeod can. Here we have a mix of Doug delivering to us some truly outstanding pieces of music for us to savor and enjoy over and over again.

His early days as a sideman to the likes of George Harmonica Smith and Peewee Crayton are long gone. Over 30 years have past, nearly two dozen studio albums have been made, several live recording have emerged and even a DVD. He did time in LA as a popular radio host, wrote for ten years for Blues Revue Magazine, but it is the music he creates that is most memorable and loved. He lives the music he creates. That is the mark of a true blues man.

The title tracks gets things started. It’s a dark and cool cut about addiction; the devil is looking to claim souls and he takes them when you get hooked. It’s electric, has a great groove to it and presents a great story and a highly listenable hit song for all to enjoy. Next up is a whimsical Doug MacLeod sort of tune entitled “Be What You Is.” “If you do what you ain’t, you ain’t what you is” is the premise of this cut, another great philosophical gem from MacLeod. His body of work often offers up stuff like this song; I, like all his fans, love them.

He goes down home with “Money Talks,” a straight up acoustic blues with fingerpicking goodness and Doug’s great vocals, Doug doing what he does best. “Where Are You” follows, a somber ballad with cool accompaniment that talks about the travesty of returning veterans that get lost and left out after they return home. It’s a powerful message delivered with emotion. “Dodge City” is next, not a song about the wild west but about the Nation’s Capital where the elected residents spend their time avoiding answering questions or for their action. It’s a slick acoustic cut with MacLeod again telling his story as only he can. Next is “Smokey Nights and Faded Blues,” a song that hearkens back to Doug’s electric blues days playing at Reuben’s where many a west coast Blues great would stop in and play.

“Only Porter At The Station” is a cut where Doug tells us we can help someone by picking up their baggage and being their personal porter, a great act of love. It’s a mid-tempo boogie with forthright vocals. MacLeod moved to the Memphis area and here writes and plays about his home on Mud Island, a sand bar in the Mississippi River that he calls home. A quiet instrumental, Doug gives us a musical image of looking out and taking in the beauty of where he lives. Next is “Dubb’s Taking Disappointment Blues,” another one of Doug’s great story songs. Here he gives us an amped up story about his old, woman chasing days that starts out promising but quickly turns disappointing as the woman sets the mood, disrobes and then begins disassembling herself. One has to laugh as Doug shifts from thinking he’s scoring on the very first move to complete disappointment- it’s a hilarious song.

“Grease The Wheel” is a story that Doug tells where we need to do some work in order to succeed, greasing our own wheel, so to speak. If you want things to change, well, then grease that wheel. Another story from Doug’s days chasing women during his Navy days is “Somewhere On A Mississippi Highway.” Stationed in Millington, Tennessee, Doug was venturing out past Memphis into Mississippi to see if his luck would change. He didn’t find love but he found a great time, although he doesn’t remember exactly where it was. His inimitable story telling style once again gives us a winner as he describes the fun night in this $5 cover charge roadhouse joint with pool, fine soul food and music. The final cut is about his son’s second battle with cancer. He was staying with friends in the Philadelphia area on a Sunday night. He was unable to sleep, worrying about what laid ahead for his boy. He was out on the deck, calling on the higher power to guide him and those taking care of his son. The next day he got the news that his son and his wife got the good news that his condition was treatable, and now almost two years later his son has beaten cancer again. It’s a beautiful cut filled with emotion and love. The title tells us, “There Is Always Love.”

It’s hard to think that after all this great music there would be more gas in the tank to create new and amazing stuff. MacLeod never rests on his laurels and here we see and hear him giving us an amazing new album of music that will once again turn heads and garner attention. Kudos to this old sailor and great human being for giving us another superb album of music that we can enjoy again and again.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

imageHurricane Ruth – Live at 3rd and Lindsley

Hurricane Ruth Records

14 Tracks

Hurricane Ruth is a blues rocker from the old school, singing with power and a unique sound. Recorded live in Nashville and produced by Tom Hambridge, this is a hard-driving, rocking blues show captured for all to hear.

In addition to Ruth on vocals, we have Hambridge on drums, Scott Holt and Nick Nguyen on guitars, Calvin Johnson on bass, Lewis Stevens on Keys and special guest Jimmy Hall on vocals and harp on a couple of tracks. It’s a hot, rocking affair! Hurricane Ruth had a hand in writing 11 of the 14 tracks and Hambridge assisted in 5 of them, a fresh and new album of cool songs.

The set opens with “Roll Little Sister,” a tune that easily could come from a rock band in the 1970’s. Ruth blazes through the vocals and the guitars play an equally big role here. “Hard Rockin’ Woman” continues in that vein , another hard rockin’ song done by some hard rockin’ folks having a good old time. We get into some slower blues next with “What You Never Had.” Ruth handles the vocals nicely and Stevens does well in support on the organ. Next is “Dirty Blues,” a slick blues rocker with a great groove and some more seet guitar soloing. “Faith In Me” follows, a slow, bluesy ballad performed with feeling and with a tastefully restrained guitar solo, too. “Slow Burn” builds into a burning hot number with blistering guitar and hot vocals. The tempo gets turned down a few notches with the cover “Cry Like A Rainy Day” where Ruth shows her softer side to start before building a bit, another tasteful guitar solo is featured here; well done!

“Barrelhouse Joe’s” is next up, a party time song with a rousing beat and featuring some barrelhouse piano to make things even better. Hall appears on harp and vocals with Ruth on the classic “As The Years Go Passing By,” with some greasy guitar and harp to savor here. Nicely done! Hall continues in harp support on Ruth’s cut “Make Love To Me,” another bouncy and fun number. Barry Goldberg’s 1973 “I’ve Got To Use My Imagination” (co-written by Bernie Goffin) is up next, and Ruth makes it her own. More stellar guitar work helps make this even better. “Like Wildfire” follows, an uptempo and rocking cut that must have had them up dancing. Piano and guitar solos spice things up sweetly. Next is “Far From The Cradle,” which opens with some slide and is a deliberate, slow and sultry blues. Piano support is again well done in this cool, slow blues. Ruth honors here Momma with “Dance Dance Norma Jean,” a song she closes all her shows with. It’s a great boogie woogie tune and Ruth and the band obviously enjoy performing it. A couple more guitar solos are featured here, too; what’s not to like?

I was impressed with the set from top to bottom. Lots of great new tunes, a few slick covers and an enthusiastic live performance make this a fun listen. Ruth showcases her vocal and songwriting talents and has a great set of musicians backing her up. I really enjoyed this and all blues rock fans will, too.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8 

imageProfessor Louie and the Crowmatrix – Strike Up the Band

Woodstock Records – 2022

10 tracks; 41:41

The beauty of The Band was how they seamlessly blended so many voices and instruments, creating lovely cohesion out of disparate sounds. Professor Louie and the Crowmatrix show a similar ability on Strike Up the Band, their 16th album.

The sonic resemblance to the Band makes sense when you learn that Louie, born Aaron Hurwitz, spent time in their orbit, producing their final three albums, as well as touring with them. Strike Up the Band is a Band-like swirl of sounds, with beautiful musical moments popping out of the mix, even if you’re sometimes unsure of who played what.

“Work It Out” is a strong piano groove, augmented with organ. Hurwitz’s vocals are strong, more than enough to carry the song, and Miss Marie’s backing vocals sweeten the track. The Woodstock Horns make the beat even sharper, providing a punch which propels the tune. The arrangement, by drummer Gary Burke, is incredible, with the individual instruments audible and playing against each other. Where too many horn charts sound like a keyboard preset, here you can get a sense not just of the instruments, but even the personalities of the players behind them.

“Good to Be Grateful” has a ’50s bounce. This number, like “Work It Out,” uses a strong piano riff, but the vocals, which seem to include the entire band, give the song an almost spiritual energy. It also helps that the chorus is catchy as anything, something you’ll be humming to yourself long after the tune ends.

While most of the album’s tracks have a Band vibe, they don’t all sound like tunes the Band might have recorded. One exception is “End of the Show,” which has a grandeur and sadness that sounds like something the Band might have tracked themselves. From the rickety rhythm, to the guitar that pops up like a cowlick, to the piano and organ clamoring to take control of the song, it’s a beautiful tune.

The Band pulled from so many sources to create their signature sound, so it makes sense that so many other bands have been inspired by them, and similarly borrowed from the Band’s influences, as well as the Band themselves. What’s cool about Strike Up the Band is the quality of the curation. Hurwitz’s time with The Band allows him to effectively re-create their sound. It also helps that the Crowmatix is super tight and talented. Which brings us to another of the album’s strengths: Burke’s horn arrangements, which are breathtakingly bold and nuanced. Taken together it’s a fun album that Band fans will appreciate

Reviewer Steven Ovadia interviews blues artists about their songwriting process for Working Mojo.

 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 8 

imageBobby Gentilo – Gentilo

Blue Heart Records – 2022

10 tracks; 39 minutes

Bobby Gentilo was born in Washington, DC, but has spent much of his life in Mississippi where he was a member of The Cornlickers, the backing band for Big Jack Johnson; since Big Jack’s passing The Cornlickers have been the house band at Red’s Lounge in Clarksdale. Although Gentilo has been on many albums as a sideman, this is his debut under his own name. He wrote all the songs, collaborating on one with Dale Wise and on one with Tony Ryder; he also produced and recorded the album, with engineering help from Logan Kurtek. All three of those collaborators are involved as musicians: Dale plays drums on two tracks, Tony bass on two and Logan provides bari sax and flute (and plays clavinet on one cut). Other musicians include Benjie Porecki on keyboard and Aaron R Lewis on harmonica: Jason Hoffheins is on drums on most tracks, Christy Engel replacing him on one track; Alex Degnan is on bass on one track and Juan Guillermo Aguilar adds percussion to one track. Bobby himself handles the vocals, all guitar work, bass on most tracks and occasional drums, percussion and Moog.

Given Bobby’s history, opener “Disease” is a little surprising, a catchy little number, almost a pop tune with a breezy rhythm and country-inflected guitar work. “Peace Train” has a naggingly insistent guitar riff which is more in the traditions of Mississippi Hill Country music but “Tell Me” is a gentle ballad, pleasant and well sung, but well away from the blues. “Troublin’” adds harp to the mix, a classic tale of jealousy in which Bobby is concerned about what his girl is up to when she is away from him, sung over a fast-paced tune.

“Ghost” is the first of two instrumentals and is definitely in the Hill Country style with steady drums and a hypnotic guitar riff, the whole aided by keyboards from Benjie. The tune does not really get anywhere but percolates along well before giving way to “The Greatest” which sounds like an out-take from a 70’s soul session with its choral vocals (all Bobby, by the way), synthesiser stabs and gentle guitar work. “The Real You” is more of a blues with plenty of keyboard effects and some effective bari sax, plus a nicely poised guitar solo mid-tune. “Treat Me So Mean” is a sparse tune with Bobby’s guitar backed only by keyboards, the track that comes closest to a straight blues here. The album closes with a pair of tunes that show their Mississippi DNA: “Tire Fire” is a grungy instrumental featuring Bobby’s guitar and Tony Ryder’s bass, both previous members of The Cornlickers, a track that will appeal to those who are fans of that band’s style; “Higher” is the shortest track on the album, but employs three drummers behind Bobby’s ringing chords and repetitive vocal refrain, very much in Hill Country mode.

There are certainly elements of Mississippi Hill Country here, but Bobby shows us that he is not restricted to that style.

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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