Issue 16-19 May 12, 2022

Cover photo © Jim Hartzell

 In This Issue 

Bucky O’Hare has our feature interview with Nick Moss. We have eight Blues reviews for you this week including a new book from Martin Feldman plus new music from Grant Dermody and Frank Fotusky, Beverly “Guitar” Watkins, Constantine & the Call Operators, Gerfast, Moving Sidewalks, Bad Daddy and Miss Bix. 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 – Nick Moss 

image“To me the biggest lesson I ever learned from playin’ with Jimmy Rogers was learning that Chicago ensemble sound that those guys created. There’s a magic to it that people don’t understand. There are a lot of bands out there that I hear that have a bunch of really great musicians in ‘em. And they play really fine music. But a lot of times it’s so boring to me because I hear the guitar player playing the guitar part, the bass player playing the bass part, the drummer playing the drum part, the keyboard player’s paying the keyboard part, but, they’re not playing the fucking song. They’re playing their parts which I guess is creating a song, but they’re not PLAYING the song. To me there’s a big difference.”

“When you listen to the old school guys, when you listen to the stuff from the 50’s and early 60’s that those guys created there’s a dance that’s happenin’. And sometimes it sounds like they’re all playing at the same time over the top of each other. But they’re doin’ it in such a beautiful and perfect way that they’re actually like weaving in and out of each other’s parts. It’s like a lost art. And really all it is is being in tune with the fact that you have these other musicians on the stage and you should be complimenting each other. You shouldn’t be in competition or obstruction of the guy next to you, you should be complimenting each other.”

Nick Moss is the great complimentor. One of the most talented and original Bluesmen of his generation, Nick is an inspired guitarist and powerhouse singer. But he is also one of the most magnanimous and generous band leaders of modern Blues. The Nick Moss Band is a collective in which Nick and his compatriots listen, compliment each other and take up the mantle of selfless ensemble playing. They PLAY the songs, not the parts. The Nick Moss Band’s pair of Kid Anderson produced Alligator Records releases featuring harp ace Dennis Gruenling High Cost of Low Living (2018) and Lucky Guy! (2019) are fully realized artistic statements; proof positive with multiple BMA and Blues Blast Awards. Traditional in their approach, collaborative in sound, these are, however, Nick Moss features. After a fruitful exploration of Jam Band laced Blues Rock with the dearly missed but never forgotten singer Michael Leadbetter, Nick has emerged into a more fully realized artist. He has a deeper more emotive guitar style and a gravity to his singing.

Nick Moss has a well documented back story. A high school athlete, his dreams of a sports scholarship were dashed when an inherited genetic disorder took away most of his kidney function. Nick pivoted to his 2nd love music all the while following in his brother Joe’s footsteps.

“My brother Joe has always been my first influence.” Nick remembers, “I watched my brother become a great sportsman as a kid and then I followed his steps into sports. Then I watched my brother pick up a guitar and become a great guitar player and then I followed him into music. He’s always been my number 1 inspiration as a kid.”

Joe and Nick came by their love of music honestly from the cradle of their family. “My mom had the best record collection growin’ up.” Nick also adds, “my dad was a huge music fan.” When other kids were goofing off on Saturday mornings watching cartoons. The Mosses were enjoying music together and keeping up their house.

image“I grew up with 2 blue collar parents that worked and my brother and I were left to fend for ourselves. But, not in a bad way, they taught us how to take care of ourselves and we did. There were Saturday mornings when most kids watched cartoons and shit, that was the day that we did all the chores because we had pretty much destroyed the house all week while mom and dad were at work. So the only rule was beside cleaning up, you could listen to the radio or you could listen to records, but no television until your chores are done. So we would kinda play DJ every other week. One week Joe would pick the music, the next week I’d get to pick. It kinda gave us a really good appreciation for music, mostly my mom and dad’s record collection. But my mom had everything from Soul, to Blues, to Rock n’ roll, to Gospel, to Folk music, she loved everything.”

It was his mom’s influence that gave Nick his first taste of that Blues intoxicant that we all know so well.

“I remember a very poignant moment when I was probably 5 or 6 years old. My mom played this B.B. King record that was Indianola Mississippi Seeds. I remember my mom in the kitchen and she’s blastin’ that record one day. I’m runnin’ through the house with one of my buddies. We have these big tower speakers next to the console. I remember stopping dead in my tracks at one moment where B.B. hit this note on the guitar and then sang this falsetto line right after it. I just remember staring at the speaker and I could just feel this electric buzz in my body. It was like I didn’t hear it, I felt it. I literally felt like I got hit with a bolt of lightning. I had this electric buzz go eeeeee. And I remember looking at the speaker and asking my mom, ‘what’s that?’ And she said ‘what’s what?’ And I pointed at the speaker and she said ‘that’s B.B. King.’ And I said ‘what’s a B.B. King?”

“That was the first shit that really hit me in a way that it was palpable. It wasn’t that I was just hearing it, it did something to me. To this day I still chase that buzz, that feeling, it’s kind of like a drug that I’m chasing. When I play every night I’m still trying to get that buzz I got the first time I heard it.”

Nick leaned on the buzz to help sooth the pain of not being able to continue his sports career. While still in the hospital Joe broke Nick out and brought him to the Wise Fools Pub to see Little Charlie and the Nightcats. Nick tells the hilarious story in his 2016 Blues Blast interview here: On that fateful night he got to meet the then young up and coming Rick Estrin and Charlie Baty and started a lifelong friendship.

“Every time I’m with Rick, and especially now that Charlie’s gone,” Nick waxes, “it’s like it’s still that same night. We reminisce that same fuckin’ night over and over when we’re together like it just happened. The guys that inspired me to play actually became my very good friends and I got to tour and play with these guys over the years.”

Once he jumped into the music life, Nick proved himself in late 80’s and early 90’s with the last generation of great Bluesmen such as Jimmy Dawkins, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and most notably the legendary Jimmy Rogers. Your interviewer is deeply influenced by Jimmy Rogers and I feel he is an underrated master in the broader Blues fandom. I told Nick as much.

image“I’m in agreement with you. I really believe he’s one of the names that doesn’t get mentioned enough as being one of the architects of the Chicago sound. And the reason I say that is because he was basically Muddy’s right hand man. Before Muddy went electric, you know, Muddy had a very country sound. When he went electric and got signed to Chess he told those guys I’ve got a friend that plays guitar that works for a cabinet factory, drives truck, I’d like to bring him in. And they didn’t want to bring him in at first. Muddy was pretty adamant about bringing Jimmy in. That 2nd guitar and the rhythm that he played is the reason Muddy had that sound. Jimmy’s rhythm on all that stuff is some of the most stellar beautiful rhythm guitar you’ll ever hear. It’s so understated and perfect and such a beautiful compliment to Muddy’s guitar lines and Walter’s harmonica and Spann’s piano and all that stuff.”

Nick didn’t go to college for sports but he did go to Blues college. Undergrad in the Legendary Blues Band under the tutelage of Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. Graduate work was with Jimmy Rogers. “It was a big band,” Nick marvels, “ it was my first time playing in a band that big.” The band was Jimmy and Moss on guitars, Ted Harvey on drums, Bob Stroger on bass, Madison Slim on harmonica and Piano Willie O’Shawny. Nick had a birth by fire. He also was dropped into the deep end of ensemble Chicago Blues on Blues’ biggest stage.

“My very first night playing with them, honestly, was what was called the Handy Awards then before the BMAs. My very first show I did with Jimmy Rogers was at the Orpheum Theater at the Handy Awards. I was scared shitless (chuckles). I gotta go out and in the front row is Sammy Carr, Luther Tucker’s sittin’ out there, I mean all these heavy weights. I mean John Hammond, John Hammond Sr. he was still alive. They’re all sittin’ out there in the fuckin’ front row, man.”

“I’d been playing in bands trying to play traditional Blues with young guys at home. When we had 2 guitars we’d look at each other and be you play the top, you play the bottom. That means one guy plays the bass notes and the guy on the top plays all the fills and chords, right. Right before we get called out on stage, fuckin’ sweatin’, and I tap Jimmy on the shoulder and he looks at me. And I go ‘hey, what do you want me to play the top or the bottom?’

“And he gave me this look like I was the stupidest mother fucker he had ever come across. And he went (with a cool voice) ‘Man, play what I’m not playin.’ And then they called us out on stage and he walked out and I was like, what the hell does that mean?”

“As soon as we got on stage, as soon as I plugged in and we hit the first fuckin’ note of the song it all of a sudden made sense to me. I was playin’ with these guys who knew how to do that, play what I’m not playing. If I’m playing this, you play that. If I’m playing that, you play this. So I could hear it and I was like oh, I see. I’m supposed to color what’s not there, I’m supposed to compliment what this guy did. When Jimmy was at the microphone singin’ sometimes he’d be playing the bottom strings, sometimes he’d be playing notes and fills. He never just stuck to one thing. So when he starts playing notes and fills I’d go to the bottom, start playing the bottom notes. When he’d go to the bottom, I’d switch up and go to the top notes – chords and fills.

“And I just remember him looking over his shoulder and smilin’, flashin’ that gold tooth at me. I’m like okay good I got it now. Right off the bat I learned a valuable lesson right there.”

Nick spent 4 years in Jimmy Rogers band, toured all over the US and Europe and developed himself into a Bluesman. After he left Rogers he launched his own solo career and Rogers passed away less than a year later in 1997. But, Jimmy’s final lesson to Nick was a hard pill to swallow, one that stuck with him to this day.

image“Jimmy was one of the nicest guys I was ever with.” Nick remembers fondly, “but you didn’t cross him and you did things the right way, the way you’re supposed to. I learned that valuable lesson too, the wrong way. At the end, when I ended up leaving his band, he let me go because I made a fuckin’ stupid mistake.” Nick recounts the story with regret and admiration in his voice.

“We were overseas and the promoter let it slip how much money he was paying for the band. Some of the members at that time in that band, some of the older guys, were grumbling about (in a silly dejected voice) ‘oh man, we’re only making this and he’s making this.’ Jimmy always used to give me extra money cause I carried his bags, I carried his guitar, I set his amp up, I tuned his guitar. At the end of that tour Jimmy gave me a couple hundred bucks extra.

“The guys were grumbling about not making money and were gonna say something. I was just trying to like not rock the boat and I said ‘you know what man, if it means that much to you here I got some extra money I’ll give you guys extra money I think you guys should just leave it alone.’ And one of the guys said ‘well where you’d get that extra money from?’

“I said ‘well Jimmy gave it to me. I help with his guitar and I help do this and help do that.’ They were like ‘well we’ve been with him 20 years longer than you and he’s given’ you extra money?”

“Course they said something to Jimmy. Then Jimmy pulled me aside a week later and said ‘hey man I gotta let you go.’ I said for what, what do you mean? He had this look of disappointment on his face and he said: ‘Man, you never tell another man how much money you make. What you make is what you make, what another man makes is what he makes. What you agree to is what you agree to get paid. They all agreed to get paid, nobody told me no I won’t do it for that. They all agreed to that payment. And you agreed to yours and that’s what you got paid. But you never tell another man.’

“I learned a valuable lesson right there and then. Yeah I was wrong, man. That was 4 years and I was like Goddamn that ended quick (chuckles). Not how I was thinking it would end.”

Nick took the lessons he learned forward into his stellar institution of band. 25 years later Nick Moss is the master Bluesman his idols and mentors were. He cultivates young players and is a leader amongst his peers. Working with the incomparable Dennis Gruenling and the mad wizard Kid Anderson, Nick has created a way forward for the modern traditionalist. 30 years almost to the day of his fateful first meeting with Charlie Baty and Rick Estrin at Wise Fools Pub, Nick signed with Bruce Iglauer and Alligator Records, a long time dream come true.

The future it bright for Nick Moss, the band has emerged from the Covid lock down with international festival gigs and renewed energy. And at the heart is Nick paying tribute to the Chicago masters and keeping the unique magic of the Blues ensemble alive, done right and done for modern times.

“The traditional Blues is really where my heart is, it always has been. I like playin’ modern stuff, I like playin’ Rock n’ Roll, I like playin’ Jam kinda stuff too. I’m like every other guitar player, I want to get my rocks off sometimes.

“But, still my heart is in the old school stuff. I just love the classic sound of piano, harmonica, guitar, upright bass and drums just done right.”

Check out all thing Nick Moss at:

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



 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 


imageMartin Feldman – Further On Up The Road


268 pages Softcover edition

It is no secret that blues music is highly regarded in Europe, where touring acts often play in upscale clubs and historic theaters, a far cry from what many artists are used to in this country. But being a devoted blues listener, author Martin Feldman made five trips to America from 1979 to 1988 at his own expense to witness the blues in it’s home environment. Coupled with some of his blues encounters in his native Germany, those trips are the primary focus of this compelling saga of one man’s quest to learn all that he can about the music that captivates his soul.

The book adopts a unique format. The pages with text are split – one side is in English, the other in German. While that allows the book to appeal to a larger audience, and eliminates the need for language-specific versions, it also limits the space for the author’s comments about each facet of his journeys. But that concern is quickly dismissed once readers start exploring the treasure trove of photographs and memorabilia from Feldman’s private collection displayed on every page, much of which has been stashed away, unseen for years.

The initial trip was the author’s first visit to Chicago. He and his companions spent a weekend making the rounds at Kingston Mines, B.L.U.E.S., and Wise Fools Pub. Included in this section is a flyer from Kingston Mines listing the nightly line-up of artists, with autographs of some of the artists and candid photos of guitarist Johnny Dollar, Eddy Clearwater, Mighty Joe Young, and Floyd Jones.

For his 1981 excursion, Feldman returned to Chicago for a more extended visit, venturing out to notable spots like the Checkerboard, Florence’s, and Theresa’s Lounge as well as Chicagofest on Navy Pier The 30-plus pages are filled with eye-catching photos like one full page color shot of Queen Sylvia Embry on stage, another of Sunnyland Slim and Tail Dragger hanging out, Lefty Dizz sitting on a fully decked-out motorcycle, or a B&W shot of the decrepit conditions in the Maxwell Street.

Feldman also made a point of visiting Chess Records and includes a photo of Jim O’Neal from his days running Living Blues Magazine. An added bonus is a page with several photos took during a visit with gospel legend Rev. Thomas A Dorsey, who earlier in life was known as Georgia Tom when he partnered with Tampa Red to cut a series of risque blues songs. Feldman also manages to fit in a couple days in New York City, catching Eddie Kirkland at Dan Lynch’s Blues Cafe.

Two years later, the author made it San Francisco for a short visit, starting off with a packed house at the Last Day Saloon for a high energy show by Albert Collins and the Icebreakers. Then he crossed the Bay to Oakland to take in the show at Eli’s Mile High Club before heading to the Viking Lounge for a show featuring Johnny Fuller and piano great Dave Alexander, documented with two pages of photos.

Covering more than a month, the 1986 trip yielded a bonanza of material. Traveling with Louis Reitz, the author takes in some of the sights along the West Coast and Los Angeles before heading to Texas, through Louisiana, into Mississippi, on to Memphis, and once again, Chicago to bring a end to the trip. There are too many highlights to list, but a shot of Tabby Thomas’s Blues Box at night will resonate, as do photos on facing pages of Smokey Wilson and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, not to mention Fenton Robinson at Tipitina’s in New Orleans, swamp blues stalwarts Silas Hogan and Arthur “Guitar” Kelly at the Blues Box, and Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis in the market that gave him his nickname.

The last of the US trips extends from Chicago through Kansas City to California. Readers will delight in discovering musicians like Kansas City Red, Earring George Mayweather, Little Hatch, and Joe Kincaid. In Los Angeles, he attends a tribute to the outstanding singer and songwriter Percy Mayfield, including a photo of his wife and a letter she later sent to Feldman.

The second half of the book documents musical events that took place in Germany, the Netherlands, and other far-flung parts of the world. Readers can easily get lost in admiring the photos of musicians who no longer walk the planet. One excellent shot features Good Rockin’ Charles Edwards, Chico Chism, and Lester “Mad Dog” Davenport. Another shows Buddy Guy working hard as two young fans sit spellbound on the edge of the stage. Another smaller photo has Otis Rush with Lacy Gibson next to him. Then there is a page with 18 year old Lucky Peterson at the keyboard, and a shot that captures Little Milton and Magic Slim sharing the stage. And don’t forget the picture of Lurrie Bell, Billy Boy Arnold, and John Primer signing autographs at the 2009 Gaildorf Festival.

At the end, Feldman devotes one page to the variety of cameras he used over the years, and includes a six page listing of blues literature that he found helpful. Another point, covered at the start of the section on each trip, is that the author also made sure he used part of each visit to enjoy the natural wonders and historical sites that the northern hemisphere has to offer, undoubtedly seeing more of our country than most US citizens will lay eyes on during their lifetime.

It adds up to a fascinating glimpse at a world that barely exists any more, with many of the artists having passed on and the venues they called home now closed, and most likely torn down. Thanks to Feldman’s efforts to document his “vacations,” that world lives on, bringing back memories for those who were there, and giving others a vivid taste of what the past was really like.

Highly recommended!

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying the sun and retirement. He is the past President of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and a former member of the Board of Directors for the Blues Foundation. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!

 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8 

imageGrant Dermody and Frank Fotusky – Digging in John’s Backyard


CD: 13 Songs, 45 Minutes

Styles: Tribute Album, Duo Album, Blues Covers, Acoustic

Tribute albums are mixed blessings. On the one hand, they’re great ways to pay homage to one’s favorite musical artists and influences. On the other hand, they face three obstacles from the start: 1) the original songs are automatically better or at least more well-known, 2) they may not sell as well as the original works, and 3) the covers either have to be note-for-note wonders or so innovative they might as well be their own compositions. The thirteen selections on Digging in John’s Backyard, from Grant Dermody and Frank Fotusky, are inspired by their shared connection to the late John Jackson, the Virginia-bred country blues guitarist and master of the Piedmont style who gave up in 1949, only to be “rediscovered” in the 1960s.

Oddly enough, the sole track attributed to John Jackson on this CD is number seven, “Boats Up River.” The others are covers of songs by Leroy Carr (“Papa’s on the Housetop”), Sonny Boy Williamson (“Peach Tree Blues”), Carl Martin (“Good Morning Judge”) and several more. The traditional melodies of “You Better Lie Down” and “Alberta” are also included here. Yours truly thinks it would have been better to include more original material by Mr. Jackson. This duo shows much reverence for him, but their vocals and guitar delivery lack vibrance. If blues is a color, this would be pastel – mellow and gentle, but unfit for barrooms or rec rooms. The peppiest tunes on here are “Peach Tree Blues,” “Boats Up River,” and “Shake It and Break It.” The real highlight is Grant Dermody’s harmonica, however. It’s as hardscrabble-country-blues as you can get. From start to finish, it tells us how John Jackson and these two got famous.

Grant’s journey on the harp started with the wide-open, amplified Chicago sound. He first started studying and playing acoustic blues – Piedmont and Delta-style – when he was hired to teach harmonica in the mid-1990s. It was then that he first met John Jackson and John Cephas. The two master bluesmen from Virginia would become great friends and mentors. Dermody never got to record with John Jackson, but John Cephas played on Grant’s first two albums, modestly refusing any pay for his participation. Frank’s connection to Jackson has a similar trajectory: he was drawn to John’s music, eventually got to meet him, and they became great friends. It’s interesting to note that Grant and Frank didn’t meet until after John passed away in 2002. They finally got together to record as a duo and to honor their friend, mentor and spiritual guide.

Via Digging in John’s Backyard, they’ve unearthed some real gems.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

imageBeverly “Guitar” Watkins – In Paris!

Music Maker Foundation – 2022

10 tracks; 40 minutes

Beverly Watkins started playing at age 20 and continued until ill health intervened in old age; she passed away in 2019, aged 80. Despite starting out with Piano Red, playing with The Inkspots, being a fixture on the Atlanta scene and playing with the likes of James Brown, Ray Charles and BB King, she stayed under the radar and only made her first record at the age of 60, a disc that earned Beverly a WC Handy nomination in 2000.

Tim Duffy, founder of the Music Maker Foundation rediscovered her and booked her on many tours and she carried on playing well into her seventies. This album was recorded in Paris and is the first live recording of Beverly’s music. It was recorded during a MMF tour, with her former Inkspots leader, Eddie Tigner, on keys, Albert White on rhythm guitar and Lil’ Joe Burton on trombone; the rhythm section is not credited. Beverly is on guitar and lead vocals throughout a selection of original material and two choice covers.

Beverly tells the audience that she wrote “Baghdad Blues” after all the terrible news she saw on TV, a steady groove which is followed by “Do The Breakdown”, Beverly encouraging everyone to get involved in the music over a funky rhythm that owes something to James Brown. Beverly sings clearly and has quite a growl on the more uptempo numbers, but on a ballad like “Melody Cruise” she does not need to force her voice and her vocals take on a sweeter tone. It’s a great tune with a hint of Caribbean sway and we get to really hear Lil’ Joe’s mellifluous trombone for the first time.

The familiar strains of Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” adds a Latin feel to the concert, the rhythm section setting the pace and Beverly adding some quick-fingered runs on guitar before checking in with the audience that they know the words to the song, getting a positive response back! Uncredited harmonica (possibly Lil’ Joe?) features on the slow “Lonesome Window Blues” which has some delicate guitar work also. Beverly leads the band into “Blues Ain’t What It Used To Be”, a shuffle on which we hear Eddie’s keyboard work and plenty of good guitar, another song on which Beverly uses her growl to good effect.

Beverly nicknamed her two guitars ‘Sugar Baby’ and ‘Red Mama’ and those two tunes bookend the other cover, a very fine version of Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me”. First we get the short instrumental “Sugar Baby Swing” which really does what the title suggests – try keeping still to this one! “You Send Me” is sung well over swirling organ work and also features Lil’ Joe’s trombone which adds a mellow tone to the familiar song. “Red Mama Blues” is a longer cut, another slow blues, again featuring Lil’ Joe. Beverly was famous for her ‘party piece’ of playing the guitar behind her head and that may well have happened on the closing number, the lively “Get Out On The Floor” on which you can hear and feel the crowd’s excitement reaching fever pitch.

This is a good insight into what made Beverly Watkins a great live performer, even at 73 years of age when this was recorded!

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


 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 8 

imageConstantine & the Call Operators – Self Titled

Self-release – 2021

9 tracks; 36:44

Constantine & the Call Operators have a vintage sound, taken from the best American music of the 1950s and ’60s. Proving music’s global reach, this band originates from Helsinki, Finland, not that there’s any tell in their music. Instead their self-titled album sounds like a collection of lost or forgotten hits from some of music’s golden eras.

The album starts out on the right foot with “Blind Man in a Maze,” which sounds like Motown, complete with the horns, falsetto and piano flourishes. And as with vintage Motown, bass, here provided by Jaska Prepula, provides the song with its heartbeat, although singer/guitarist Konstantin Kovalev’s vocals are also impressive.

“Losing Game” is a slower tune, a ballad that feels a bit more modern, perhaps touching all the way to the 1970s. Kovalev sings a refrain of “Love is a losing game,” almost as if he’s trying to to hypnotize the listener into believing something that the narrator might not quite believe himself. Kovalev’s guitar break is pretty, never veering too far from the song’s huge hook. Coming in at over six minutes, the tune is a bit long, though. So much classic ’50s and ’60s music works because of how songwriters got into and out of songs quickly. As beautiful as “Losing Game” is, especially the guitar soloing, it lags a bit.

The album’s songwriting is impressive overall, though, especially given how many sub-genres they explore, but their cover of “Please Believe Me,” a 1940s’ track originally performed by Frank Haywood, shows the band’s understanding of the different musical idioms. Where Haywood’s original is low-key, Constantine & the Call Operators re-position the tune in the 1950s, complete with climbing piano runs, a vast horn section, and a beat that won’t quit. They keep the essence of the original, but re-imagine it for a different time period.

Constantine & the Call Operators is a fun album from a talented band, but to move beyond fun novelty, they might want to think about different ways to deploy these classic sounds. “Please Believe Me” is one of the album’s more compelling tracks, not just because of the strong performances, but in how the band combines different styles, taking a song from one era and placing it in the sonic context of another. More mixing and matching like that in their own songwriting, rather than their deferential approach, might create some new and exciting sounds. This is a tight polished band, and Kovalev is a wonderful songwriter. It will be interesting to see how their sound evolves.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

imageGerfast – Legendary Grooves

Magic Music

CD: 8 Songs, 37 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, All Original Songs

Here’s a thought experiment: Would you listen to an album entitled “Fair to Middling” or “Meh”? Probably not. A catchy title can mean the difference between a purchase and a pass. Jan Gerfast, a Swedish blues artist, has gone all out in advertising Legendary Grooves. Does he deliver them on the eight original songs featured here? That depends. If you’re a fan of SRV and bands like the Veldman Brothers, this CD will be right up your alley. It’s heavy on keyboards and wah-wah funk, eliciting high energy. It’s also got some terrific guitar solos, such as the lengthy one in the middle of “Shame On You” and the fiery staccato of “You Know the Deal.” The rhythm grooves are also solid, but they’re on the basic side. A bit more variation would have served Gerfast and his posse well. Vocally, one can tell Jan’s not from the United States, but his lyrics are more than serviceable. Last but not least, this is a contemporary blues ROCK album, so be prepared not to hear any of the old masters’ styles. Instead, be prepared to play air shredder!

Jan Gerfast was born in 1954 and raised in Osby, a small town in the south of Sweden. He began to play blues guitar at the end of the ’60s, developing a passion that would last for more than 50 years. In the ‘70s he lived as a vagabond, staying in Paris, France as a street musician and playing in a jazz club there later on. He came home again and started an experimental rock band called Blue Night. Gerfast describes his existence at the time as “a kind of hippie life in the woods.” At the beginning of the ’80s, he was backing up other Swedish artists live and in the studio.​ He moved to Stockholm in 1984 and played with musicians from all over Sweden, touring from south to north and playing different styles of improvised music. He’s also been to Holland, Belgium and Poland on tour. In 2020, he moved back to Osby again. He has released 11 albums in his own name thus far.

Joining Gerfast (guitar and vocals) are Magic Mama on keys and vocals, Per Lindberg on drums, Magic Man on bass, and Simon Cop on drums for track eight, “Psychedelic Blue.”

Jan’s grooves may not be legendary in the United States, but if he keeps up the high quality of his music and expands his repertoire, they will be.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

imageMoving Sidewalks – Flash

Rock Beat – 2022

11 tracks; 44 minutes

Back in the mid-60’s a young Billy Gibbons was just starting out in music. He got involved in bands while at Art School in California and formed Moving Sidewalks when he returned to Houston in 1967. The band consisted of Gibbons on guitar and vocals, Tom Moore on keys, Don Summers on bass and Dan Mitchell on drums. The band had a considerable following in Texas and supported several well-known acts including The 13th Floor Elevators (a major influence on the band), The Doors and Jimi Hendrix. After several reasonably successful singles the band released its only album Flash in 1969. The album contained material written by all members of the band, Gibbons being the main writer, along with the band’s manager, Steve Ames. The band folded when Moore and Summers were drafted into the army, but Gibbons and Mitchell then formed the original incarnation of ZZ Top and the rest is history.

The album opens with “Flashback”, very typical of 60’s psychedelic music, distorted vocals, freaky guitar breaks, swirling organ and obscure lyrics. Mind you, Moore’s “Scoun Da Be” gets even weirder lyrically as Gibbons demonstrates his Hendrix influence on the guitar. The tune there is arguably blues-based but Gibbons’ first writing credit “You Make Me Shake” is more like early Who, with some resemblance to “Happy Jack”, particularly in the bass lines. The pace drops for “You Don’t Know The Life”, an organ-led ballad, before “Pluto – Sept. 31st” which is very Hendrix-influenced, both in the guitar work and ‘far out’ lyrics, even including studio trickery like backwards tapes and spoken asides. This track definitely sounds like an outtake from an Experience album!

More commercial in sound is “No Good To Cry” which was released as the ‘B’ side of “Flashback”. “Crimson Witch” combines a chugging guitar riff with rousing drums and lyrics like “I’m so far out I can’t remember my face” before the longest track on the album, “Joe Blues”, also released as a ‘B’ side, this time paired with “I Want To Hold Your Hand” (yes, the Beatles song, not included on this collection); it is a proper blues, complete with some solid guitar work, lots of reverb and echo on everything, Gibbons even adding some anguished harmonica. The original album then closed with “Eclipse” and “Reclipse”: both tracks have lots of studio messing about, silly voices, ticking clocks, fake commercials and shouts of ‘Take 1, Take 2’ etc.; there is even an orchestral section! Simply irritating to these ears, they may have sounded better after some recreational drugs as the noise switches between the speakers in true 60’s style! Added to the original album is “99th Floor”, the band’s debut single from 1967; shorter in length and more tightly arranged, it is a pretty commercial piece of pop with a few additions like the background harp.

The Moving Sidewalks were clearly very much of their era. There is one blues song here and a few influences but in the main we are a long way from the blues here. Potential buyers should be aware that the album has been re-released before, notably a Complete Collection in 2012 that included this material, plus some earlier material from Billy’s first band The Coachmen. However, this re-release contains the whole Flash album remastered, along with the debut single “99th Floor”.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8 

imageBad Daddy – It’s A Mad Mad Bad Dad World

Piehole Records – 2022

10 tracks; 53 minutes

It’s been fourteen years since Maine-based blues-rock band, Bad Daddy released their debut self- named album, and they have just followed that with the cleverly titled It’s a Mad Mad Bad Dad World. Group leader, guitarist and singer, Paul Waring, has a “day job” as a yacht designer and part-owner of a marine architecture and engineering firm, which seems somewhat unlikely for a blues musician. But as he had noted previously in interviews, it pays the bills to allow him to then play the blues.

Both Waring and Pete Galanis play guitar on the album. With two lead guitarists it’s not surprising that, although they are never over-emphasized, the pure, beautiful guitar solos stand out as the major strength of the album. This is particularly noticeable in “Just My Luck,” “Left Me with The Blues,” and “The Blues I Can Use”. However, all of those joining them, (Elton Jaan on Hammond organ, Art Seder on Bass and Jason “JROC” Edwards on drums) are also clearly excellent musicians.

Perhaps the best song on the album is “The Blues I Can Use.” This is a slow blues number featuring the Hammond organ and Waring’s gritty, emotive vocals. In addition, “Pork Pie Hat” offers some great visual imagery, noting “I was drinking my gin and soda in my pork pie hat…let me grab my big sunglasses and my pork pie hat…I bought a feather in band…that ain’t no fedora.” The rest of the album features a variety of tempos along the blues-rock continuum.

The only relative weak area on the album is that the lyrics can be a bit simplistic, and don’t tell a full story, instead relying on brief, repeated references to love relationships. For example, one song notes, “my baby gave me some real bad news—she packed up her leaving trunk and left me with the blues,” while the next repeats “Don’t you know it’s true, I’m blue on you.’ And the final song simply repeats “do you love me baby? Do you really care?” without heading toward any more interesting aspects of the referenced relationships. This is disappointing since some of the power of the blues comes from the way lyrics tell a story or reflect how people work their way through problems.

Overall, however, this is a solid contribution to the blues rock genre, and fans will be hoping that it’s not another fourteen years before Bad Daddy releases their next album.

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 – 8 of 8 

imageMiss Bix – Bring It

Blue Heart Records BHR 026

13 songs – 61 minutes

A 30-year veteran of the recording industry, Miss Bix took almost 25 years to explore the blues, but the wait has been worth it. After a stay in Clarksdale, Miss., in the mid-2010s, she delivered a 2017 love letter to Delta music that came in the form of the CD, We Don’t Own the Blues. And she continues her journey with this all-original contemporary set that puts an optimistic spin on surviving a world filled with COVID, social injustice and political strife as well as the loss of her home in California in a wildfire.

Born Leslie Letven and influenced by Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, Sting and others, she was a star under her maiden name in the world of smooth jazz in the early ‘90s after her debut release, Make It Right, charted as high as No. 12 internationally. After her marriage and the birth of her son, she morphed into Leslie Bixler and became a major force in children’s music, teaming with showbiz giant Dick Van Dyke and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith on two CDs, Moon Food and Rhythm Train, and winning a Parents Choice Award in the process.

When her son reached adulthood, she sought a new musical direction, spent several months soaking up the culture in Mississippi and learning the blues from artists born in the tradition. She adopted the Miss Bix moniker with her first blues offering, which was produced by former Eddie Money musical director/multi-instrumentalist Ralph Carter. A well-received mix of powerful story songs, it featured an all-star lineup that included Bruce Hornsby keyboard player John “J.T.” Thomas, former Van Morrison drummer Gary Mallaber and two of the best bluesmen on the West Coast — guitarist Franck L. Goldwasser and harp player RJ Mischo.

Recorded and engineered by Charley Pollard at Dragonfly Creek Recording in Malibu, Calif., this disc serves up a far more contemporary set with Carter, Goldwasser, Thomas and Mallaber all returning to the fold. They’re joined by former IBC winner Keeshea Pratt, New Orleans powerhouse Tiffany Pollack and Phil Wimer on vocals, Montgomery Pollack on guitar, Jimmy Z on harp, Tom Canning on Hammond B3 organ and Bill Bixler, Miss Bix’s former bar owner/Malibu High School music director hubby, providing a horn section.

The sprightly shuffle, “Ain’t No Such Thing,” opens with a brief guitar hook before Miss Bix’s honeyed voice sings praises of a man whose kisses no longer drive her crazy, but still insists she’s still “right where I belong.” Goldwasser’s extended mid-tune solo swings from the hip. The pace slows a little and the mood gets a little edgy for “You’ve Got the Nerve,” which delivers a respite to a lover for coming on too strong before evolving into a love song that offers a promise of more.

“Cocktail Hour” is up next. It’s a jazzy, relaxed ballad that describes days passing by “like caramel on ice cream” with only whisky sours and the daily ritual of the title standing out. Goldwasser’s attack on slide shines for the driving swamp blues, “Trail of Tears,” in which Miss Bix plans to drink away the pain of a troubled relationship before the mood brightens with the semi-acoustic ballad, “The Girl You Adore,” which poses the question: “Has time washed the magic away?”

Pratt joins the action for the “Red Walls,” a soulful, slow-but-steady protest number that earned two bronze medals in Global Music Awards when released as a single in 2020, while “Cheer Up, Sallie Mae,” starts quietly and quickly picks up steam as it serves up encouragement to a friend who’s down on her luck but has always done the same for the singer in the past. The haunting rhumba, “The Poison,” delivers dark images dealing with the seemingly regular arrival of both a lover accompanied by trouble before Thomas and Jimmy Z shine on the Big Easy-style complaint, “You Don’t Deserve to Be My Man.”

The feel continues with Tiffany and Miss Bix trading verses in “Daddy Why,” which yields for the 12-bar gospel pleaser, “You Better Believe It.” Two more numbers — the autobiographical “Shake Me Discover Me,” which describes Miss Bix’s childhood dreams of music stardom, and the solo acoustic lament, “Movin’ On” – bring the album to a close.

A multi-layered, mixed-bag, the blues runs deep in this one. Difficult to categorize, it serves up an interesting, well-executed treat in every cut.

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


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