Issue 16-2 January 13, 2022

Cover photo © 2022 Matthew Zahn

 In This Issue 

Anita Schlank has our feature interview with Tony Holiday. We have six Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Catfish Keith, Buddy Shute & the Motivators, Son House, Jon Shain and FJ Ventre, The Deputies and Raphael Wressnig & Igor Prado.


 Featured Interview – Tony Holiday 

imageWhether it’s through the music he performs, his production efforts, or by wearing another artist’s shirt for one of his own publicity photos, Harmonica player and singer/songwriter Tony Holiday is often paying tribute to those musicians he respects. Blues Blast Magazine recently had the opportunity to catch up with Holiday through a virtual interview and heard first about his admiration for James Harman.

“The first time I heard James Harman was a time I will never forget. I related to James in a lot of artistic ways, but in my little farming hometown in Utah, you have to work hard to get good live music to come. I ended up taking all the money I made playing shows to fly people like him in so I could see them, and James would stay at my house, that’s how I got to know him. What hooked me was his voice. I’m a huge fan of Bobby “Blue” Bland, and he had a lot of Bobby Bland’s qualities. Not his personality, though. James was grumpy. I misunderstood it at first, but later I feel like I understood it a little bit better, and I came to appreciate his personality too. I was really able to appreciate having him in my life.”

Holiday has also been very vocal about his admiration for harmonica player/singer John Nemeth, and it was Nemeth’s influence that convinced Holiday to move to Memphis three and one-half years ago.

“When I first heard John, I was working in a barbecue shop as a butcher. I wasn’t allowed to come out and see the live music because the boss didn’t want customers to have to see the apron covered with blood. But I had to come out when he played. I heard this very distinctive way of playing harmonica. He is a U-blocker, using his tongue in a ‘U’ shape. But it’s more than that—he had his own style, and then there is his voice. I had been a guitar player at the time, but I sold my guitar that week. That was it. I switched to harmonica after hearing John Nemeth. And he facilitated the move to Memphis. I love Memphis. It’s fantastic. There are a lot of great people here. I’ve made a lot of great friends, and it’s an inspiring place to be.”

(When asked about Holiday, John Nemeth stated “Tony Holiday is a good friend and a helluva talent. Give him a listen!”)

Holiday has been a prolific writer of songs with wide-ranging topics. He has also co-authored songs with artists such as John Nemeth and Ori Naftaly. However, the original song that was the most meaningful to Holiday was written as a tribute to both O.V. Wright and to the people in Michael Ledbetter’s life who miss him.

“It’s written with the same phrasing as OV Wright’s ‘You’re Gonna Make Me Cry,” so it’s a tribute to that song, and I wrote it when Ledbetter passed away. I had been taking vocal lessons from him and his death seemed so random and so heavy. It moved me so much. I knew it would take a lot of time for the people in his life to even grasp it, so I guess I wrote it for them. He was always a very inspiring person.”image

 When asked about non-original songs that he most likes to cover, Holiday was quick to respond.

“I like songs about notorious women that take great men down and bring them to their knees. In a way they are villains, but in a way, they are super-heroes. I like ‘A Woman Named Trouble’ by Little Sonny, and ‘She’s a Burglar’ which was written by Howard Tate, but I cover it the way Freddie King did. That’s a great song—‘she’s a burglar, she broke into my heart. She broke into my mind.’”

Holiday’s love of the blues started when his mother would bring home CDs from the library. She brought home Bobby “Blue” Bland, BB King and Hound Dog Taylor CDs, which he reported loving, and he also saw characters looking cool on the album covers, making him wish he could hang out with them. His mother then bought him a guitar, hoping it would keep him out of trouble.

In his devotion to the music, Holiday has not only recorded his own CDs, but also completed two compilation CDs with numerous special guests. Both ‘Porch Sessions’ albums were recorded live, on people’s porches. The first volume, which was nominated for a Blues Blast Award, included numerous special guests, including James Harman, John Nemeth, Kid Ramos, Bob Corritore, Charlie Musselwhite, Aki Kumar Kid Ramos, Bobby Rush and many more. Bobby Rush returned as a guest again on the second volume, which also features great artists including Watermelon Slim, Mark Hummel, Ben Rice, A.J. Fullerton, Rae Gordon, Southern Avenue and JD Taylor. Holiday noted that there seems something special about playing music on porches

“I’ve always liked the idea of porches. It’s where family used to get together at the end of the day, especially if they didn’t have air conditioning, because the night would cool you off. You would get to know each other and sing songs together. It was a time everyone looked forward to and they would have their shoulders down. Recording in a studio has always been an uncomfortable thing for me and I think people sometimes prematurely record an album because of how forced it can be. I also liked the idea of Buddy Guy taking a wire out of the screen porch and nailing it down and plucking it as his first instrument. Porches seem like a home base for roots and blues. So, I was on Facebook and I said I record on porches, would anyone let me on theirs, and Kid Andersen answered. He said his porch was famous, and he facilitated me recording Charlie Musselwhite on Andersen’s porch.”

Somewhat unusually for albums with guest artists, Holiday decided not to play on every track featured on Volume Two. His reasoning demonstrates his humility regarding his own talent.

“I didn’t want to record it with any intention of me playing. My intention was to produce recordings that I like, and we have Aki Kumar and Charlie Musselwhite playing on a track, so I wasn’t needed. I didn’t want to squeeze in where it wasn’t necessary. There are no egos on the porch, and no rehearsals. All of those tracks are just ‘fly off the handle’ tracks.”

imageHoliday is sponsored by German-made Seydel Harmonicas, whose motto is ‘To make inspiring music, there is no need for a big instrument—but a great one!’ He joined an impressive list of artists who are Seydel endorsees, including Charlie Musselwhite, Mark Hummel, Sugar Ray Norcia, and many others. James Cotton was also sponsored by Seydel.

“I’m with Seydel—that’s what I use, mainly the 1847 classic, but then I also use the Marine Band Deluxe by Hohner. I have a wooden mic, and I go through two Fender Bassman amps. That’s my most used rig.”

Like many other musicians, Holiday’s career was significantly impacted by the COVID pandemic. Also, like many others, the circumstances of the pandemic led to some significant changes in his perceptions and values, causing him to re-evaluate his priorities.

“I lost a lot of gigs, a European tour and a Canadian tour, and I have not been able to get momentum back again. I hate to go on about it because I know many people struggled much harder than I did, but it was a huge eye opener. It shook things up for me personally. I don’t play for the same reasons anymore. I don’t play four to five nights on Beale Street. I think I was using my music as a hammer and a nail and I’m using it more as a paintbrush now. After COVID I would rather play a show that is a show than play for people while they are eating. I’d rather it be an event that people come out to see. I’d like to be a part of that.”

Enduring the pandemic also stressed to Holiday that life is short, and that he wanted to spend more time with his wife and three daughters. He noted his admiration for women in general.

“The nights I spend at home are super quality times, creating priceless memories with my daughters. I also have three women involved in my management, and I am extremely grateful to them. Sally Bengtson is from NOLA Blue and Blue Heart, Betsy Brown is from Blind Raccoon and Blue Heart, and my manager is Samantha Muffet. I grew up with seven sisters, so I think I ‘get’ women better than men. I don’t even know if I could raise a son.”

Holiday has recorded two albums on the Vizztone label (co-founded by Bob Margolin and Richard “Rosy” Rosenblatt), and one album on the Blue Heart label. When asked about his vision for his next album, Holiday noted that it is actually already nearly completed.

“AJ Fullerton is a rising star-a really talented hill country artist. I reached out to him and said that I would love to have him on guitar, and he said that he had written ten songs that he would love for me to do. I liked all ten of them. So, we went to Zebra Ranch in Mississippi, and we’ve recorded most of the album already. I imagine it will come out in May. Victor Wainwright and Terrence Grayson are on it, and it’s got some horns on it. Most people say if its hill country you can’t put horns on it, but I don’t really care. No offense to the tradition at all, but I’m not making it to be in the footsteps of everyone who came before us. This sound is like Clarksdale meets Memphis. In addition to the songs written by AJ Fullerton, there are a couple of cool covers of more obscure hill country songs. It was a different approach for me when none of the songs are songs I’ve written. It’s like you’re an actor. You have to go in and perform the parts in your own way, with no pre-set ideas.”

You can learn more about Tony Holiday’s upcoming release, and find out about his tour dates by checking out

Interviewer 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 – 1 of 6

imageCatfish Keith – Land of the Sky

Fish Tale Records

13 songs, 51 minutes

Avid Blues Blast readers certainly know who the incomparable Catfish Keith is, he won best Acoustic Blues Album the last 2 years. For anyone not hip, Catfish Keith is one of the most original and exciting acoustic Bluesmen of our time. This is not hyperbole. All one needs to do is listen to the opening 30 seconds of Keith’s 20th studio album Land of the Sky to know this is a solo performer of unparalleled mastery, originality and talent. Like all 19 of Keith’s previous records, Land of the Sky is a diverse eclectic document of the artist. Ranging from gut bucket to crisp and light, the music of Land is a kaleidoscope of energy all filtered through Keith’s voice, guitar and foot stomps.

What sets Keith apart is his jubilant, buoyant spirit that shines out of his exuberant performance. A true guitar master, Keith plays his many acoustic instruments like they are extensions of himself employing a wide variety of techniques to create a vast sonic palette. Interpreting classic songs by Jimmie Rodgers, Rev. Gray Davis, Memphis Minnie, Joseph Spence, Walter Davis, Jimmie Davis (the singing Governor of Texas), Charley Patton and Lil’ Son Jackson, Keith’s 4 originals sit in complete harmony with the classics. Keith has often said in interviews he views all the songs he performs, original and cover, similarly putting his own stamp on all the music. This plays out with cohesion and seamless flow here.

Land of the Sky is all killer no filler. There are no highlights because each performance is so present, engaging and real. However, a few tracks do illustrate Keith’s unique style and talents and are of particular note:

The Joseph Spence vehicle “Bimini Gal” is a calypso variation in which Keith offers a fully in the moment improvisation. A stomping stutter chug that characterizes Bahamian guitarist Spence’s style is made terra firma by Keith’s incessant foot stomp. The sturdiness of the beat allows Keith to slither, chatter and skate over with pinched harmonic sound effects, slaps and thumps on the strings and the soundboard of the guitar. The vocal performance is so daring and in the moment it is insatiable.

“Santa Claus Blues,” Walter Davis’ holiday offering, is possibly the darkest and most brooding track here. The deep tuned down sound of the the 12 string guitar removes all the holiday cheer from the arrival of “San-ti-Claus.” Allowing the instrument to wallow and plop, Keith plays this 12 bar Blues with a reckless muscular attack. But, again Keith’s natural lust for life and overall positivity can’t allow even this dark brooder to veer to far a field. There is such joy and zest in the performance that it transcends the holiday season pigeon hole and makes this a year round listen.

Played on a resophonic ukulele, Keith’s original “Scoodle Oot ‘n’ Doo” is a sweet sentimental flourish. The uke riff is so sweet and catchy that if this was orchestrated with a full band it would be an Adult Contemporary hit, the kind of thing Keb Mo’ might do. But here in Catfish’s hands the repetitive psalm of the song allows for his expressive singing to wring every last emotive drop out.

The final track on the record is an interpretation of the metaphysical master Charley Patton’s “Some of These Days.” Taken to a crawling tempo, significantly slower than the original, Keith takes his time playing bottleneck slide with expressive vibrato. Keith luxuriates in this emotive strategy of giving this anguished song room to breath and allows his often intricate guitar work to shine.

Catfish Keith puts a lot of effort and thought into his albums. Like an annual Holiday greeting from a distant friend who you don’t see often, Keith writes messages in his liner notes and details his thinking behind each song. This year’s message finds Catfish and his partner in life and music Penny Cahill hopeful for travel and full of joy.

Land of the Sky is a wonderful reminder of the power and beauty of pure expressive music and another moving chapter in Catfish Keith’s mission to spread the shine of the Blues far and wide.

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 6 

imageBuddy Shute & the Motivators – Bar-B-Que

Self-produced CD

14 songs – 67 minutes

Now based out of the Ozark Mountains in Northwest Arkansas, Buddy Shute is a guitarist, keyboard player and tunesmith who carries forward the true blues traditions he learned growing up in Memphis a block from Sun Studios in the golden era of music in the Bluff City – something that comes through loud and clear in the 14 tunes of this set.

Shute started playing in the local bar scene before an extended stay in New Orleans, where he was a founding member of the Back Door Blues Revue, a unit that included John Magnie, a future member of the Subdudes, future blues superstar John Mooney and the late Leigh “L’il Queenie” Harris, who went on to become a Bourbon Street legend.

A former burlesque house piano player, Buddy’s also teamed with keyboard player George Winston — one of the earliest and most successful proponents New Age instrumental music — in the band Abraham, served as a regular bandmate of Clarence “Frogman” Henry and recorded two albums with the Maine-based group, Roundhouse. This is the fourth disc he’s released under his own name following Outstanding in His Field, Ozark Moon and A Whole Lot Like Blues, the Ozark Blues Society’s representative in the 2018 International Blues Challenge self-produced CD competition.

Shute possesses a relaxed tenor singing voice and shares the mic with fellow Memphian and occasional songwriting partner Brenda Baskin throughout this album, the debut release for his latest band, the Motivators, a solid unit composed of harp player Mark McGee and a rhythm section composed of drummer Randy “Dobie” Reese and bassist Steve Baskin.

Adding to the mix are keyboard player Keith Hubbard – best known for his work with Kelly Richey – and backing vocals from Rachel Fields on two tracks and joined by the NWA Motivational Angel Choir – Ashtyn Barbaree, Dawn Cate-Bonner, Janna Falkner-Perry, Ashley Keylor, Kendra Kirlin and Sarah Loethen – on two others.

A pleasant set in which percussion is high in the mix throughout, the action opens with Buddy and Brenda trading vocals on the rapid-fire original, “Got Love,” as they rejoice in their romance. Hubbard provides stellar work on the 88s beneath the action before soaring during a mid-tune solo. The tempo slows, but the funk kicks in for “Every Now & Then,” which celebrates good fortune in everything from love to lottery winnings and finding your favorite beer in stock, too.

The title tune, “Bar-B-Que,” is up next. It’s a duet that’s chockful of images of Memphis and a visit to the Rendezvous for a plate of ribs that’s good for whatever ails you. The slow-blues burner “Somethin’s Goin’ On” gives Shute a chance to stretch out on the six-string as Brenda sings that she fears her man’s cheating and taking her for a ride.

Two covers — Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me to Do” and Melody Gardot’s “Your Heart Is as Black as Night” – follow before Buddy’s guitar and Reese’s harp are featured in the uptempo “Gonna Jump a Freight Train,” an interesting number that shuns backroads for bypasses and insists: “I’m gonna get myself a hurricane and blow these blues away.” Brenda’s back in charge for the ballad, “I Don’t Want to Know,” another song about impending heartbreak, before Buddy launches in on the blazing rocker, “Too Much Month (Not Enough Money).”

“I’ve Been Changed (Angels in Heaven)” – penned by Cleavant Derricks and a hit for Ivan Neville – and Magnie’s “Lovin’ You” follow before the originals “Think I’ll Give the Blues a Try” and “Can’t Take It with You” bookend Koko Taylor’s “Voodoo Woman” to bring the set to a close.

Spin Bar-B-Que and give it a good listen. It’s a trip to the roadhouse on a good night. The only thing missing will be the hangover!

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 6 

IMAGESon House – The Complete Library Of Congress Sessions 1941 – 1942

Jasmine Records – 2021

22 tracks; 76.56 minutes

Eddie ‘Son’ House was born in 1902 and came somewhat late to the blues, having been brought up in a strict religious household. After moving to Algiers, Louisiana, he took up preaching and only discovered secular music in his mid-twenties. He developed rapidly, however, after meeting Charlie Patton and became an influence on Robert Johnson.

He first recorded in 1930 at Paramount but the three singles that resulted did not sell particularly well. His next recordings were the ones featured here, two sessions recorded for the Library Of Congress by famed music chronicler Alan Lomax. The first session took place in August 1941, at Klack’s Store in Lake Cormorant, Mississippi, selected because it had electricity but it was also by a railway line and you can hear a passing steam locomotive on one track!

The second session was at Robinsonville, Mississippi the following July (without railway sounds). This material was released in the 1990s by Travellin’ Man Records but has been out of print for years, so this is a welcome reissue on CD. Three tracks have been added from the 1930 sessions to complete the CD which, as usual with Jasmine releases, contains informative sleeve notes by Bob Fisher whose recent death leaves a huge hole in the blues writing world.

On the Klack’s Store recordings Son is joined by Willie Brown who adds vocals on two tracks and guitar on four, Fiddlin’ Joe Martin adds vocals on two tracks and mandolin on four and Leroy Williams plays harmonica on four cuts; Son is on vocals and guitar on all tracks except two on which Willie plays guitar alone. All songs are credited to Son though many are based on traditional field hollers and work songs and listeners will recognize snippets of the lyrics from all over the blues world, reinforcing the influence that Son’s original recordings have had. The first three tracks are all quartet performances with two guitars, harp and mandolin. Son’s vocal style is said to have been developed from his declamatory preaching style and his vocals here are particularly impressive. On “Fo’ Clock Blues” and “Camp Hollers” he leaves guitar duties to Willie Brown and the pair and Leroy Williams offer spoken exchanges during the songs. Son introduces Leroy at the beginning of “Delta Blues” which they perform as a guitar/harp duet.

The Robinsonville session is just Son on guitar and vocals but the style remains much the same. Considering their age, the recordings sound OK; a little hiss and crackle here and there, but you certainly get to hear Son’s commanding vocals. After a false start, “Special Rider Blues” will sound familiar, as do several of the songs, the lyrics of which have been recycled many times since these recordings.

Son plays slide guitar on some of these tracks, notably “Low Down Dirty Dog Blues” and there is a curious inclusion entitled “The Key Of Minor” which appears to be a short studio discussion about rising and falling chord sequences between Son and Lomax. That precedes “American Defense” which moves away from the blues and is clearly about the Second World War. The short “Am I Right Or Wrong?” explores how it felt to be a man of color in Son’s lifetime. “The Jinx Blues” is in two parts, probably intended to fill both sides of a single, and runs to an impressive eight minutes in total.

The final three tracks come from the Grafton, WI, 1930 session and the sound quality is definitely inferior. “Preachin’ The Blues” is another two-parter and will be familiar from the opening line “I’m going to get me religion, I’m going to join the Baptist church. I’m gonna be a Baptist preacher and I won’t have to work”. The final track is the original recording of “Walking Blues” which every blues fan will know and aficionados will be pleased that this is the earliest of three versions of the song included here, allowing us to compare solo, duo and quartet performances.

Every blues fan should have heard these originals and this release offers that opportunity to anyone who does not own Son House’s early recordings.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 6 

imageJon Shain and FJ Ventre – Never Found a Way to Tame the Blues

Flyin’ Records

CD: 12 Songs, 43 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Roots, Americana, Harmonica Blues, All Original Songs

What is the essence of the blues,? At its heart, it’s wild music. It won’t do for sedate background tunes at a wedding rehearsal dinner or the soundtrack of a perky rom-com. Nor will it satisfy the needs of commuters at Starbucks or shoppers at Target. North Carolina’s Jon Shain and FJ Ventre know this well. They’ve Never Found a Way to Tame the Blues, because it can’t be tamed. On twelve original selections, they clearly demonstrate this tenet. Despite vocals that are a touch too flat from our protagonists, their seasoned musicianship shines through. There’s a thoroughness to the album, no slapdash effort but the combination and culmination of two veteran talents. Case in point? Shain and Ventre started playing music together in 1982, when they met in high school. (I myself was three years old at this time.)

This CD meshes hard rockers such as the opener, entitled “Lord Have Mercy,” “Overnight from Memphis,” and the seventh track, “Sinking Ship,” with mellower offerings like the title track and low-down, throw-down, ragtime-influenced numbers like “Outraged.” Americana and roots music are seamlessly blended with pure blues for a mighty tasty brew. Some listeners may crave a lot more guitar and a lot less fiddle, but hold up. The latter is magnificent. Ever heard of the Nouveaux Honkies? They’d be proud to hear Anne Harris’ instrument of choice, and so will you. When blues and country get together, magic happens.

Jon grew up in Haverhill, Massachusetts, a Merrimack River mill town that had already seen its better days by the time he was a child in the 1970s. His family’s business was a small textile dyeing company, and he worked in the factory during the summers throughout his teens. At the same time, Shain began to discover his love of American roots music and songwriting, specifically drawn to the narratives about regular people and themes of social justice.

He’s released eight studio albums, working with studio luminaries such as Dave Mattacks, Tom Dube, and Chris Stamey, along the way. As a guest artist, Jon has recorded with Jim Avett, Greg Humphreys, Dana Kletter, and many others and his instrumental music has been placed in several documentary films and commercials, as well as on shows on the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet.

Performing alongside Mr. Shain (acoustic, electric and lap-steel guitar, mandolin, lead and backing vocals) and Mr. Ventre (upright and electric bass, percussion, keyboards, lead and backing vocals, and electric guitar on “The Endless Sea”) are Dave Mattacks on drums, cymbals and percussion; the aforementioned Anne Harris on fiddle; Rissi Palmer on duet vocals for “Keep Your Head Above the Water,” and Bob Beach on harmonica for “Lord Have Mercy” and “Overnight from Memphis.”

Standout tracks include “Overnight from Memphis,” featuring a razor’s edge in terms of vibe and guitar glory; the delightful duet “Keep Your Head above the Water,” and the relaxing “Rosetta,” featuring a clever pun: “Oh, my sweet Rosetta, won’t you roll away the stone?”

On balance, Shain and Ventre’s latest is a cut above good and a cut below great: a solid, meaty T-bone!

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 – 5 of 6 

imageThe Deputies – Live In Stockholm

Jefferson Records

7 songs Time – 43:44

Picture a smokey, noisy juke joint, only this one is in Stockholm, Sweden. The band is Swedish and they deliver bare bones blues that sound Chicago authentic aside from the vocals. They are a guitar-bass-drums outfit that are augmented by guest artist the late Sven Zetterberg on vocals, guitar and harmonica. This recording interestingly enough was recorded in 1992 on sub-par equipment, but it captures the raw, driving blues sound of the band in a crowd noise setting. The performances are great although the sound isn’t pristine.

This recording consists entirely of inspired cover songs. Vocalist Sven Zetterberg turns in a fine European voiced performance along with adequate harmonica skills.The instrumental “Kaos Hop” has the feel of an old fifties rock guitar record meets the blues. Sam Cooke’s “Laughin’ And Clownin’ Gives room for plenty of guitar antics. Sven Zetterberg plays horn lines on his harmonica on the bluesy take of the old stalwart “Caldonia”. The band stays close to the original vibe of Jimmy Reed’s “You Don’t Have To Go”. Sven does Little Walter’s “Blues With A Feeling” proud with a well done rendition on his harp.

The guitar on “I Got My Mojo Working” ventures close to country territory at times. “Tin Pan Alley” is a blues guitar Tour-De-Force. It clocks in as the longest song here at 9:41.

The Deputies bring the closest thing to real Chicago blues to their homeland of Sweden. The fine musicianship along with the requisite rowdy crowd noises invoke a jumping Chicago blues joint. The band has soaked up the basics of the authentic blues vibe of days past. The music drips with bluesy soul. Other than harmonica, the guitars dominate the sounds here with a real blues riffing. It is heart warming that blues musicians across the world strive to keep to keep the real deal blues alive and kicking.

Do yourself a favor and give yourself a heaping helping of great blues.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6 

imageRaphael Wressnig & Igor Prado – Groove & Good Times

Pepper Cake Records PEC 2137-2

10 songs – 44 minutes

Search the world over and you’ll have a hard time finding too more funky musicians than Austria-born keyboard player Raphael Wressnig and Brazilian-born guitarist Igor Prado, and they simply smoke from the jump in this set of high-voltage blues and roots certain to keep you moving and grooving throughout.

A master of the Hammond B-3, Wressnig is a five-time Downbeat magazine nominee for best organ player of the year, delivering his own unique sound – a greasy fusion of soul, New Orleans funk, jazz and blues as leader of The Soul Gift Band. He’s released about 20 albums under his own name and frequently collaborates with top names from the U.S. music scene, including guitarist Alex Schultz and Big Easy talents Jon Cleary, George Porter Jr. and Walter “Wolfman” Washington.

A jump blues stylist who plays the six-string upside down and backwards, like Wressnig, Prado has been a fixture on the international blues scene for the better part of 25 years. Influenced by Albert King, Blind Willie Johnson and Chuck Berry, he divides his time between his homeland and the West Coast, where he’s been a member of the Mannish Boys and recorded with Curtis Salgado, Tia Carroll, Aki Kumar, Lynwood Slim, Whitney Shay and others.

He’s also the first South American to earn a Blues Music Award nomination thanks to his 2015 release, Way Down South, and to hit the No. 1 spot on Living Blues’ radio charts, too. This is his second disc with Wressnig — a follow-up to The Soul Connection, also on the Pepper Cake imprint in 2016.

Groove & Good Times delivers a big sound despite being a stripped-down affair. The duo are joined throughout by Prado’s brother, Yuri, on bass and percussion with a guest appearance from Brazilian vocalist Jenni Rocha who joins Igor for a duet. Primarily an instrumental set, Raphael handles vocals on one cut, too.

Bill Withers’ “Kissing My Love” opens the action and cooks from the jump thanks to an arrangement that features a percussive rhythm pattern that puts a completely different spin on the original. Both Wressnig and Prado glide throughout slightly behind the beat. The Isley Brothers’ “I Know Who You Been Socking It To” follows with similar treatment that turns the 1969 B-side release into something entirely new.

The Meters’ 1977 B-side, “No More Okey Doke,” undergoes contemporary refreshment before Raphael takes to the mic a pleasingly funky reworking of James Brown’s “Hot Pants” that’s retitled “Blues & Pants” before Igor and Jenni reinvent Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “You Bring Love.” And both Junior Wells and Bobby “Blue” Bland would be beaming if they heard Wressnig and Prado’s versions of “Snatch It Back and Hold It” and “Ain’t No Love (in the Heart of the City),” which follow.

Wressnig rips and runs across the 88s for “Shrimp Daddy,” the only original tune in the set, before Reese Wynans’ “Crossfire” and Bob Marley’s “Soul Shakedown Party” bring the disc to a pleasing close.

If you love the classic soul-blues of keyboard giants Jimmy Smith, Ray Charles, Groove Holmes, Billy Preston and others, you’ll adore this one. Sure, there are nine covers here, but lend an ear because none of them has ever sounded like this before!

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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