Issue 16-24 June 16, 2022


Cover photo © Laura Carbone

 In This Issue 

Marty Gunther has our feature interview with Dick Shurman. We have five Blues reviews for you this week including new music from The Blue Chevys, Julian Sas, Mighty Mike Schermer, PG Petricca and Brad Absher and the Superials. Scroll down and check it out!


 Featured Interview – Dick Shurman 

imageThere are plenty of guardian angels hovering over the blues and doing everything they can to guarantee the music carries on for future generations, but few folks are more important than Dick Shurman, who’s worked behind the scenes in Chicago since the late ‘60s — soft-spoken and mild-mannered like Clark Kent but a Superman in disguise as one of the most beloved producers, journalists, festival coordinators and music historians of his generation.

A Blues Hall of Fame inductee and a Grammy winner for his studio work on Showdown! — the tour-de-force Alligator release that showcased Robert Cray, Albert Collins and Johnny Copeland, his liner notes have graced more than 100 albums. As an essayist, his text has accompanied important box-set compilations of both B.B. King and Howlin’ Wolf, and he’s been the driving force behind LPs and CDs – with everyone from Earl Hooker, Otis Rush, Charlie Musselwhite and Fenton Robinson to Eddie C. Campbell, Lurrie Bell and Magic Slim to Roy Buchanan, Johnny Winter, Mike Ledbetter and Monster Mike Welch and many, many more.

And through it all, he’s worked his magic without the need for self-promotion as he’s remained modest and unassuming in his comfort zone away from the glare of the spotlight shining on those around him.

Interviews like this one — which took place prior to one of the Chicago Blues Festival where he’d be directing major showcases — are few and far between for Shurman but always come jam-packed with inside stories and good humor – and this one was no exception. Like Elvin Bishop, Johnny Burgin and a few other current bluesmen, he came to the Windy City to study at the University of Chicago but quickly discovered that the nearby clubs on the South Side provided an entirely different education, too.

“I like to tell people that I’m a direct descendant of Frederick Mendelssohn on one side of my family and that both of my maternal grandparents on the other side were deaf,” he chuckles. “When you hear a whirring sound in the background of one of my productions, that’s Mendelssohn turning over in his grave!”

Born on May 23, 1950, in Los Alamos, N.M., where his dad was a physics researcher after serving in the military during World War II, Dick grew up in Seattle, Wash., where the family relocated when his father landed a job with Boeing. His introduction to the blues came thanks to an Emerald City Top 40 radio station as he was entering his teens.

“Every once in a while, they’d let a blues song slip through,” Shurman remembers. “‘Boom Boom’ by John Lee Hooker was No. 1 for a while. ‘Memphis’ by Lonnie Mack was No. 1. I remember hearing (Little Johnny Taylor’s) ‘Part Time Love,’ (Bobby “Blue” Bland’s) ‘Turn on Your Love Light’…there was the ‘folk-blues’ thing going on, too.

“I didn’t realize it ‘til later but my parents’ attorney and his wife were the hosts to a whole lot of the visiting ‘rediscovered’ folk-blues people when they’d play coffeehouses and folklore society gigs. And they had a son who was really into it. I remember him playing me some Lightnin’ Hopkins early on.”

The seed planted, Dick’s interest grew during the British “invasion” when the Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Yardbirds and other bands hijacked the airwaves with their own blues-infused brand of rock-‘n’-roll, and it increased dramatically when “a friend came back for Christmas break from college with those first two (Paul) Butterfield albums,” he says.

“I tried to find a guitar teacher in Seattle who could teach me blues, but I was probably looking in the wrong places. But I did have a good friend, Steve Bailey – he still plays in a band called Stevie & the Blue Flames. We had the perfect combination: My parents had the tape recorder and he had a job.”

The duo scoured Seattle record scores in search of LPs, which were extremely rare during that generation. When they did find one, though, Bailey had the money to buy it and Shurman began expanding his knowledge by copying it to the family’s reel-to-reel. It had nothing to do, he says, with laying the groundwork for Dick’s future endeavors, adding: “I didn’t have a clue then about how the sausage is made!”

imageBack then, he had no idea that Guitar Shorty and Johnnie Bassett were working regular afternoon gigs together and that George Hurst, a Bay Area piano player/guitarist who was a good friend of Johnny Heartsman – a multi-instrumentalist Shurman would record as an adult – was around town for a while, too. Even if he had, he was too young to catch them in action.

“I got drawn to Chicago blues by records,” Dick says. “The weekend of my senior prom, Junior Wells was playing out there for two nights with Louis Myers on guitar and I went to that instead of the dance. To tell you how little I knew, I walked up to Louis and said: ‘Are you Walter Williams,’ which was Lefty Dizz’s real name, because he was on Junior’s latest LP (Coming at You on Vanguard).

“But they could tell my interest. The bass player was shocked when he discovered I knew who Freddie King was because most white folks back then were clueless. They were very encouraging and told me that I could come by their hotel. And by the time I did, they both said: ‘Hey, look me up when you come to Chicago.’”

Shurman credits both Myers and Otis Rush for teaching him about Chicago blues when he arrived on the shores of Lake Michigan at age 18 in 1968. It didn’t take long before he found that he was spending so much time in neighborhood clubs – frequently capturing live performances on tape – that it was interfering with his education.

“The university was so close to everything on the South Side,” he notes, “only a five-minute cab ride to Theresa’s, Pepper’s – where he got stuck up — and the Blue Flame.”

Myers lived a mile away on the opposite side of Washington Park, Rush two or three miles to the south, and he was in walking distance of the homes of Johnny Shines, Bobby Bland guitarist Wayne Bennett, Little Brother Montgomery, Jody Williams and guitarist Reggie Boyd – all of whom quickly became friends along with Willie Dixon, Magic Sam, Mighty Joe Young and others.

“It was all right there for me,” Shurman remembers fondly. “There weren’t that many people like me then, and I was soaking it up.

“It didn’t make for studying though. That’s why I only stayed at the university for a year. I’d figured out how to get a B with the least amount of effort.” It was the same path, he says, that Elvin had followed a few years earlier. He’d selected physics as a major because he knew that if he did well enough on quizzes he wouldn’t have to put in lab time, thereby giving him the space to pursue music.

“I didn’t want to go through school that way,” Shurman says. “But on Wednesday night, if I had the choice of studying for either a German vocabulary quiz or tape record Earl Hooker at Pepper’s, it was a very easy call.”

Shurman actually began recording artists as a hobby, noting that even in the Windy City, “there were hardly any records available for blues artists,” Shurman remembers. “There wasn’t even a printed post-War blues discography back then. The list of people that had zero albums – or close to it – was stunning.

“I told Wolf once: ‘I don’t want to do anything commercial. I just want to have all your records and can’t get enough of your music.’ He said (emulating his gruff voice): ‘That’s too bad. I was hopin’ you’d make yourself some money.’

“Otis Rush used to pick me up every Friday night with my 50-lb. tape recorder and bagful of mics and wires. There was one night when I was taping Otis at Pepper’s – it was just a trio…him, Earnest Gatewood on bass and Sam Lay on drums – and Sam had this really shyster couple managing him. It was a great warm-up set. They were doing all these Muddy tunes with Sam singing.

“The manager and his wife were giving me these side-eye stares when I was running the tape, and Sam came up to me afterward and said: ‘Don’t worry about ‘em. I told ‘em I’d take the tape away from you later, but don’t worry about it. I have no plans to,’ bless his heart.

“Those guys wanted to help me and were great about it. I’d make ‘em a copy of anything if they wanted it. But I intentionally never make it in professional quality because – every once in a while – I’d make a mistake and the wrong person would get ahold of it.

“One guy that I didn’t tape who asked me if I wanted to was Magic Sam. Bob Koester (who made Sam a star on his Delmark label) asked me not to.”

imageThat’s one of his biggest regrets –along with never getting the chance to work with West Coast guitar legend Pee Wee Crayton, a dear friend who succumbed to a heart attack when the Dick was still making a name for himself. Bobby King, who worked with Bland, Eddy Clearwater and Freddie King, is another.

The Chicago blues scene eventually proved too much of a temptation, and Shurman returned to Seattle – and his girlfriend – with plans to enroll in the University of Washington, where he eventually earned a degree in anthropology.

But he did manage to make a quick trip back to Chicago just prior to the school year after hearing that Willie Johnson, Wolf’s first guitarist – and one of his heroes, had just returned to action after a long absence. Not only did Dick fulfill a dream of recording him, but he also interviewed him for Britain’s Blues Unlimited, the world’s first magazine of its kind, which published from 1963 to the late ‘80s.

“At the time, I wondered what I could do to help the musicians and to help the blues,” Sherman remembers. “I didn’t know that I was going to end up producing records, but I figured I could be like a mediator to people and make more people aware of it. And one of the best ways I could think to do that was to write articles.

“I knew about Blues Unlimited because I bought my first copy the first time I went into the Jazz Record Mart in Chicago. I still have it — it has (Mike) Bloomfield’s autograph and phone number on the back.

“I was also offered to do a radio show, Urban Blues. It ran for three-and-a-half years on KRAB-FM. They have a website today, and to my embarrassment (chuckles), have some of my episodes online. In retrospect, I’m pleased with my (musical) tastes but appalled by my ignorance at the time.

“I also wrote a paper for a class at the University of Washington about Earl Hooker, and the Seattle Folklore Society published it. Chris Strachwitz (founder of Arhoolie Records) saw it. That’s how Earl’s tapes from Pepper’s and Theresa’s wound up on his label as the LP, The Moon Is Rising.

“It was Earl at his absolute best – and he was the best I ever saw. Nobody ever tried to compete with him on any kind of serious level. He knew he had a little something extra that none of them did.”

During the same trip, he earned his first legitimate recording credits after an acquaintance, George Paulus, sought him out to record Big John Wrencher, the one-armed harmonica player for what would become the LP Maxwell Street Alley Blues, the second release on his Barrelhouse Records label.

“He had a really cheap-ass Wollensak reel-to-reel, and I said: ‘I can get a better sound. I’ll help you out if you want.’

“I rode with him, and we picked up the band – John, guitarist Little Buddy Thomas and drummer Playboy Vinson. John was a wonderful person, but he had the most impoverished apartment I’d ever been in. I didn’t do any producing or make any suggestions – I wouldn’t have known what to suggest! I just ran the tape recorder. But it was great to be there.”

Meanwhile, back home, Seattle – the eventual birthplace of grunge and home to punk — was pretty much a blues wasteland. Back then, many of the rockers were standing in what Dick terms “the shadow of Ray Charles.”

There were a few bluesy guitarists, one of whom spent 18 months touring with Freddie King, and another, Joe Johansen, who with organist Dave Lewis, who was a big local star “until he went away for sticking up my childhood drug store,” Shurman says. “Rock bands like The Dynamics — who had Larry Coryell on guitar — were really into R&B…and (sax player) Marcus Doubleday, who supposedly made it a big part of the dynamics when he introduced heroin into the Electric Flag.

image“All the bands were doing (Duke Records bandleader) Joe Scott arrangements. And Coryell himself apparently figured out Hendrix was from the Northwest when he heard ‘Come On (Let the Good Times Roll),’ on Electric Ladyland ‘cause all the bands used to do that in Seattle.”

An excellent student, Shurman made trips back to Chicago every chance he could, and he rejected an offer for post-graduate studies in music linguistics at Princeton. “I realized pretty quickly that there were only two things I could do as an anthropologist — “go to Pago Pago or teach it…and I didn’t want to do either,” he says. “So I hitchhiked to the Ann Arbor (Mich.) Jazz & Blues Festival in the summer of ’72 and rendezvoused with two friends from Seattle who were driving around the country collecting advertising artifacts. On our way back to Seattle, we figured out my life.”

The duo both possessed degrees in library science and were living comfortable lives with plenty of freedom. They told him: ‘You know, you could get the state of Illinois to give you a scholarship to get a library degree and also a work agreement so you’d have a job back there, too.’”

Shurman jumped at the idea, earning his master’s at the U. of W. and relocating to Chicagoland soon after. He worked in the field — primarily as a specialist in library automation — until retiring in 2015.

“I was lucky,” he says. “I always had jobs that gave me a lot of autonomy, and librarians would think it was more than cool when accolades (about music) would come my way. My board would want me to take ‘em to clubs to hear Albert King and stuff like that.

“For me, it wasn’t like the guys who had a day job in a steel mill, worked until 4 p.m., took a nap and then played ghetto clubs at night. Jody Williams used to email me at 4 a.m., and I asked him one time if he was just getting up or going to bed. He told me he was about to go to work.”

An amazingly gifted guitarist, Williams starred in the ‘50s alongside Bo Diddley but became disillusioned with show business after his trademark riff was appropriated as the hook for Mickey and Sylvia’s mid-‘50s chart-topper, “Love Is Strange.” He spent decades working as a technical engineer for Xerox and storing his six-string under his bed before recording two sensational CDs for Evidence Records after retirement, both of which were produced by Shurman who’d been encouraging him for years to come home to the blues.

“But I feel really lucky,” Shurman says, “especially considering that I had a day job that restricted my freedom of movement. The amount of stuff that I have on my bucket list…I have only gratitude. I’m not very frustrated that I didn’t get to everybody. I’m much more grateful for all the great people who I did.”

Back in the city, Dick quickly became a welcome addition to the inner circle of blues aficionados who circled Koester – a group that included Living Blues magazine founders Jim and Amy O’Neal, future Alligator Records founder Bruce Iglauer, longtime Delmark producer Steve Thomashefsky, future Muddy Waters guitarist Rick Kreher and producer/journalist/musician Wes Race – and eventually started calling themselves “Blues Amalgamated.”

Shurman credits Race – who, along with Iglauer, co-produced Hound Dog Taylor & the House Rockers’ eponymous LP, the first-ever Alligator release – with opening the door for him to both print and the studio.

“He had a blues column, but was leaving Chicago and asked me if I’d like to take it over in ‘75,” Dick recalls. “And Wes was also tight with Delmark because he and the Koesters were all from Wichita. When Delmark signed Otis, he suggested to them that I’d be useful because Otis and Bob didn’t really connect.

“Bob had always been good about inviting me to sessions, and I learned some by watching him. So Steve Thomashefsky – who was the leader — and I did Cold Day in Hell. Then I recorded Louis and Bob Myers and talked Frank Scott into compiling that as part of Chicago Blues at Home (a star-studded 1977 release on Advent that also included John Littlejohn, Eddie Taylor, Homesick James, Johnny Shines and Jimmy Rogers).”

His interest in studio work grew quickly after teaming with Steve Wisner, the owner of the short-lived Mr. Blues imprint. He wrote the liner notes for Good Rockin’ Charles’ self-titled album and then became the associate producer of both Eddie C. Campbell’s King of the Jungle album and second disc for Mojo Buford, too.

He shifted to Alligator a year later, where Iglauer brought him on as a co-producer after signing Albert Collins to the label at Shurman’s suggestion. Dick worked the floor with Bruce in the control room for the stellar Ice Pickin’, the first of seven Collins albums he did for the label along with five others for Johnny Winter, Roy Buchanan, Heartsman and Fenton Robinson. Today, Dick credits Bruce for teaching him the most about recording.

imageIn the years since, Shurman’s work has spanned the globe with dozens of releases on Sonet in Denmark, Black Magic in Germany, Mr. R&B in Sweden, Double Trouble in the Netherlands and other labels across North America, including Blind Pig, Virgin, multiple runs at Delmark, Pointblank, Evidence and more. And despite the depth of straight-ahead blues in his catalog, he’s relished his work with the blues-rockers.

“Part of the bond between guys like me and Johnny and me and Roy was our shared love for traditional blues,” he says. “We all came from the same stuff. I remember one day Billy Branch came in to do some stuff with Johnny Winter and he told Johnny: ‘You play more blues than most of the cats here because they want to be playin’ somethin’ else.’

“Johnny’s mission was to come to Chicago to record real blues albums, and Roy had pretty much the same kinda thing. He had a wide definition structurally of blues, but it was kinda a pilgrimage for him, too.”

There truly is something special about the music and people who make it, Shurman says. “Rod Piazza calls it ‘the chosen who’ – the people who hear it and it hits ‘em. I tell people it’s like preaching: You have to have the calling. Your life wouldn’t be complete without it. If not, there’s too many reasons why it doesn’t make sense.

“Maybe it’s because it’s so visceral. One of the things that drew me to it as a kid was that it seemed much more adult than the pap that pop culture was feeding me on Top 40 radio and TV. Only later did I realize that ‘adult perspective’ has its pros and cons…like ‘if you whoop her and she needs it, the judge won’t let you explain…

“But it did seem adult to me…not borrowing Daddy’s Jag and putting a surfboard on it. One of Bruce Iglauer’s theories is that the beat of the blues is similar to the beat of a human heart. True or not, it’s interesting to contemplate. And it’s amazing how it transcends cultures and societies. I’ve been overseas and only five percent of the audience knows what the artist’s saying or what the words are – and feeling it just as deep as anybody here feels it.”

As someone who grew up in an analog, straight-to-tape world, Dick is now a discipline of digital recording. “I know that some people hold on to warmth by tracking some instruments on analog tape,” he says, “and then transferring it to digital. But, to me, that’s kinda like postponing the inevitable.

“But there’s ways that it can be helpful and ways it can be abused. But even in the early days, digital was criticized for sounding ‘brittle.’ That was because, in order to press LPs, they used to push the high end…what they call the RIAA curve. With CDs, you don’t have to push the high end. The definition is better and the reproduction is more even across the spectrum. But in the early days of CDs, they were still doing it and causing a problem.

“There are a lot of great things about digital: being able to see waveforms, being able to crossfade, non-destructive editing, not having limitation in the number of tracks – those are all great – and not having to buy and carry reels of 2-in. tape, too!

“Plus, I love it for mixing. In the old days, the final mix was the pass when you had to make all the moves – raise or lower faders, mute channels, whatever you were gonna do. And sometimes it took more than two hands to do it. Now, in digital, the final pass is when you don’t do anything ‘cause you’ve layered all your moves and just checking your work and making sure you didn’t miss anything.

“I don’t like to take many shortcuts or loop stuff. I don’t like to copy and repeat stuff unless there’s any alternative. I like to keep it true to the feel of performance. The only drawback is overusing your tools. At this point, the battle’s over. Digital won!”

imageOne of his best received efforts in recent years has been Right Place, Right Time, the Delta Groove release that catapulted Monster Mike Welch and Mike Ledbetter into the stratosphere, dominating the 2018 Blues Music Awards, capturing band and traditional album of the year honors and nominations for Welch as guitarist and Ledbetter as vocalist and B.B. King Entertainer of the year, too – bittersweet honors because Ledbetter died suddenly at age 33 from complications from epilepsy a few months later with plans for a follow-up already underway.

Although many folks in the industry believe him to be the major force for getting them together, Shurman claims that he’s getting more credit than he should despite the fact that he coordinated the electrifying performance that brought them together – a tribute to Otis Rush at the 2016 Chicago Blues Festival.

“No. 1,” he says, “it wasn’t my idea that they play together. I originally hired Mike Ledbetter because he had recorded Otis tunes with (Rush disciple) Ronnie Earl (on the album Father’s Day). I thought Ledbetter was gonna play with Ronnie, who was also on the bill. But Mike Ledbetter called me and asked me if I’d mind if he sang with Monster Mike instead.

“I said: ‘Well, okay.’

“So it was serendipity that they played together at all. And then the part that really blew people away was when Mike started singing ‘I Can’t Quit You, Baby’ at the end, which wasn’t my plan either. Originally, Eddy Clearwater was gonna do it because he’d sung the previous tune.

“But Eddy told me at soundcheck that it wasn’t a key that he could sing it in, so I was now ‘well…fuck…who’s gonna start the encore?’ and everybody’s yelling at me: ‘Get Mike! Get Mike!’

“That all happened of its own accord. But I did tell ‘em at the end of the set: ‘You know you’ve gotta record something, right?’ Those two youngbloods blew a whole lot of seasoned talent off the stage that night. It was an amazing thing to see.”

There’s one thing that most fans of Ledbetter don’t realize about him, Shurman says: “As great as he sang Otis Rush, he was even better at singing Freddie King – and hardly anybody knows that because he didn’t do it much — and they didn’t record any of it.”

Of the current crop of young blues artists, Dick’s “a huge Jontavious Willis fan and the circle that he’s the chairman of the board of with Marquise Knox and Kingfish. I’m trying to encourage Stephen Hull from Wisconsin who’s in that circle, too. There’s a guy here from Liberia named Joey J. Saye who’s getting around some.”

And other current favorites include Linsey Alexander’s son Nick, Anne Harris and Melody Angel as well as YouTube sensation Mac McDaniel.

Shurman’s latest effort is a new album from Martin Lang and Rusty Zinn that includes Billy Flynn and Little Frank on rhythm guitars and Johnny Iguana on piano. “That’s the second one I’ve done with Martin,” he says, “and it’s being mastered now.”

What’s next?

“It might not happen, but there’s a label that wants me to do one with Billy Boy Arnold,” he says. “Billy says he wants to do it, but I’m waiting to see if the label makes the business commitment.”

But no matter who he works with next, there’s one thing for certain: Dick insists that he’ll always be “the invisible hand” as a producer, adding: “I don’t want people to listen to something I did and say: ‘Wow! Dick Shurman did a great job.’ I want ‘em to think the artist did a great job, not me!”

Check out the small type on the next CD you buy. You won’t see his name on the cover. But if it’s in the credits, rest assured it’s a winner!

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




 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 5 

imageThe Blue Chevys – The Night Calls

Naked Productions NP061

10 songs – 46 minutes

Formed by a trio of high school students in Haacht, Belgium, in 1989, The Blue Chevys are one of the longest running bands in Europe, mixing blues-rock, rockabilly and more, and they drive steadily out of the gate with this CD, a welcome follow-up to Twice Fifteen, an anthology that celebrated their 30th anniversary, three years ago.

The original lineup — vocalist/harp player Kris Bries and brothers Frederic and Philippe Martello on guitar, backing vocals and percussion – remain intact, but the group – which started out as a vintage rock and neo-rockabilly band — has gone through several different iterations and multiple personnel changes through the years. In their current iteration, they’re a seven-piece unit with a horn section.

They were first exposed to the real-deal artform in the early ‘90s when they appeared at Swing Blues Festival in their homeland and shared the bill with two major American acts, The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Mike Morgan & the Crawl, along with harp player Paul Lamb and his long-running group, the King Snakes, out of England.

Their recording career took off in 2003 when they teamed with guitarist Filip Casteels for their debut CD, Motel Birdcage, after his departure from El Fish, another popular Belgian blues band in the era. They subsequently worked under the name Poplawsky later in the decade after enlisting a keyboard player into their roster and moving away from rock toward Americana, R&B and roots. They released their second disc, Moving On, in 2007, an album that featured contributions from Minnesota bluesman Teddy Morgan.

They also released an EP, Turn It Back, in 2015 — three years after reverting to their original name – and have been featured festival performers across Europe ever since. In addition to the founding trio, the current lineup includes Jean-Luc Cremens on bass, Sven Smekens on rhythm guitar and a horn section composed of Kim Vandeweyer (trumpet) and Koen Desloovere (sax). They’re augmented by guest appearances from former bandmate Jan Ursi on keys and Dirk Lekenne on lap steel guitar.

An all-original set penned by Kris and Frederic and delivered throughout in unaccented English, a stinging guitar hook and heavy drumbeat opens “The Night Calls.” It’s an interesting blues-rocker that finds the singer having made up his mind to win back his lady, and he’s driving through red lights to get to her side. Bries’ vocals are clear and crisp, and the instrumental fills sting. It gives way to “Willow Tree,” an unhurried, unforced shuffle that yearns for bygone, better days.

The horns come to the fore and the band gets a little funky with “Fun No More,” a percussive complaint about COVID-19 with folks dealing with the consequences of unemployment, confinement and more. Frederic’s minor-key mid-tune solo shines. The pace quickens for the horn- and six-string-driven rocker, “Thin Line,” before the band adopts Latin rhythms for “Got That Feeling,” a minor-key ballad that describes an overwhelming sensation that something just isn’t right.

Lekenne’s lap steel opens the haunting “Leaving.” Delivered from the point of view of a man walking in a downpour toward a bus, it reflects on the recent revelation that his lady’s fallen in love with someone “one foot taller” with “white teeth and a Cadillac.” The music brightens but the theme continues in “Lonely People” before the unhurried rocker, “Pick You Up,” foretells a future where the singer will “fly around like Superman” and save the object of his affection from all the “angry men” that surround her. The rocker “Never Gone” comes across with a Rolling Stones feel before the pleasant “Cool Me Off” brings the action to a positive close.

Blues-rock the way it used to be, this album is a welcome break from the shredding and pyrotechnics that dominate the medium today. If you’re old-school like I am, you’ll enjoy it, too. Available through Amazon, Apple Music and other outlets online.

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



 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 5 

imageJulian Sas – Electracoustic

Cavalier Recording

CD 1: 12 Songs; 62 Minutes – CD 2: 12 Songs, 57 Minutes

Styles: Acoustic Blues, Electric Blues, All Original Songs

Dear Blues Fans: I’d like to journey with you into the world of art for a moment. Take a look at the Monet exhibit. Water lilies everywhere, in every kind of light. Now let’s check out the Andy Warhol section. Campbell’s Soup cans are his thing. And the famous statue David? Three artists sculpted their incarnation of the same man: Michelangelo, Donatello and Verrocchio. The moral here? There’s nothing wrong with portraying the same subject in different ways. In fact, doing so can lead to national and international fame.

Consider blues rocker Julian Sas’ latest album, Electracoustic. It’s a 2-CD set covering the same twelve original songs in electric and acoustic versions. Which raises the question: If you’re a die-hard fan of either style, why spend time listening to the other one? Here are my answers: variety, comparison and contrast, and the sheer difference in vibes. An edgy, gritty number on a shredder morphs into a pensive one on acoustic guitar. “These Blues are Killing Me Anyhow,” track three on each CD, is a prime example of this. And the reggae-infused anthem “Liberation” packs a wallop on both of Sas’ instruments of choice. Although his vocals are conversational, he’s a witty songwriter and master of rapport with his band. Julian knows how to let everyone shine.

In the liner notes/lyrics booklet, he reveals a bit about how this release came to be: “The album you are looking at was recorded in the autumn of 2021. The music reflects our thoughts and feelings that heavily impacted our lives during a period that was an emotional rollercoaster.” After one of his fellow musicians, Fotis, came down with a terminal disease, Sas and the rest of the band went to the hospital in shifts and finally sent him back home to Athens so he could spend his final days in peace. Afterward, he says, “I was listening to some of the demos a few months later and called the other guys. The music was there. It was good, honest, and waiting for us. It was the right time to pick up the pieces and share the music with you.”

Performing alongside Julian (guitars and vocals) are Roland Bakker on Hammond organ and piano, and Lars-Erik Van Elzakker on drums and percussion.

My electric picks for this 2-CD extravaganza are the two I mentioned earlier, plus “Coming Your Way,” “Falling from the Edge of the World” and “Always on the Run.” That last one’s a piano-blasting blast! Her acoustic picks include “World on Fire” with blazing riffs and lovely harmonies, “Just a Song” (which is more than just a song), and “Devil at the Door” with a sly and jazzy bongo beat. What I like best about the two versions of each song is that they’re not exact retreads of one another. They have their own quirks and delightful idiosyncrasies.

Electracoustic is a 2-CD treat, suitable for a summer kickoff barbecue or party at home!

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 5 

imageMighty Mike Schermer – Just Gettin’ Good

Little Village – 2022

12 tracks; 52 minutes

Mighty Mike Schermer is a force to be reckoned with, garnering a nomination for the best Contemporary Blues category in the 2019 Blues Blast Awards for his previous album, Bad Tattoo. From the San Francisco Bay area, Mike has played with the likes of Charlie Musselwhite and Elvin Bishop, but it has probably been his stint with Marcia Ball that brought him to a wider audience. A triple threat on guitar, vocals and songwriting, Mike’s autobiographical “My Big Sister’s Radio” was covered by Tommy Castro and selected by Bruce Springsteen on his Sirius/XM show; on his latest album (his eighth solo effort) Mike wrote all the songs, collaborating with Kimberly Pickens on four, Felice Garcia on one and Steve Ehrmann on one.

Recorded at Greaseland Studio in San José and co-produced by Mike and Kid Andersen, the album features a host of Bay area talent: drummers Paul Revelli, D’Mar and June Core, bassists Steve Ehrmann and Jerry Jemmott, keyboard players Tony Stead, Chris Burns and Austin DeLone, sax players Terry Hanck, Eric Bernhardt, Eric Spaulding, Aaron Lington and Jack Sanford, trumpeters Jeff Lewis, Mike Kobrin and John Halbleib and trombonists Mike Rinta and James Cody Arnholt; Kimberly Pickens (Ms Kimmy) sings on four cuts and adds percussion and handclaps to another two, The Sons Of The Soul Revivers add vocals to one track, as do John Nemeth, Dennis Dove and Walter Pickens, while Kid fills in on anything else. Mike is, of course, on guitar and vocals throughout.

The set opens with the title track, “Just Gettin’ Good”, a title that might well apply to Mike himself! However, we soon discover that the term can be applied to foodstuffs that some might consider risky to eat, or to older love partners! A funky backbeat, four-man horn section and spiky guitar leads, a great start. Mike has shown before that he is a dab hand at soul music and that his voice suits that style well, and on “Leave More (Than You Take Away)” the gospel-tinged harmonies of the Sons Of The Soul Revivers add a gloss to the fine horn arrangement in which Eric Bernhardt can be heard on baritone and tenor sax – superb! “Spend The Night With You” harks back to 50’s pop and “This Is Where My Love Is” is a stripped-back ballad with just Mike’s gentle chords, keening organ and the rhythm section before we head to the Caribbean for “The Hungry Dog”. What these first five cuts demonstrate is that Mike Schermer can tackle roots music of all types with equal competence.

Mike admits that Albert Collins was one of his earliest inspirations and “Tired Of Travellin’” could quite easily be an Albert cover as Mike plays some typical Collins riffs over funky rhythms and the horns, while lyrically we are in the territory of the roadhound who longs to spend more time at home. Later on the disc Mike plays some more Collins licks on the slower-paced “Cook Up A Little Love” on which Ms Kimmy duets with Mike, adding a sultry element to the song.

Two cuts are much gentler: “Let’s Make Time For Love” is an overtly romantic tribute to the love of Mike’s life, well sung by Mike and harmony vocalist Dennis Dove; “Silence” is all about the end of a relationship: “I used to be your favourite song, your body tells me that it won’t be long, please just don’t sit there quiet as could be, your silence is killing me”. However, if you want a full-on rocker, try “Gypsy Ways” on which Tony Stead’s rocking piano leads the way, Mike’s rough-hewn vocals fit the song like a glove and his central solo is a great example of saying all that needs to be said in a concise yet exciting way. The oddly titled “Kimmy Kimmy Gimmee Gimmee” presumably pays tribute to Ms Kimmy who does not sing on this one but does add handclaps to the uptempo tune, as Terry Hanck delivers a brisk tenor solo.

Album closer “It’s Not Me, It’s You” places a new spin on a frequently used phrase as the band produces a border feel with Mike Kobrin’s mariachi trumpet well featured and Mike playing a solo that blends surf guitar with TexMex, the horns obviously having great fun with this one! Mike has the happy knack of writing some great lyrics: “How many days, how many nights, how many sad songs can one man write, how many sorry’s does he have to say to try and make the hurt go away?”

A good finale to a fine and varied album that is recommended listening.

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 5 

imagePG Petricca – Bad Days

self release

9 songs time – 41:44

Is there a spin doctor in the house?

Ok, a reviewer is supposed to give a fair assessment of the music, but I’m hard pressed to praise this recording.

Italian singer-songwriter, guitarist and percussionist PG Petricca delivers tuneless “songs” in a very gruff slightly accented voice that leaves the listener straining to decipher the lyrics.

The only saving grace is the often intricate guitar backing.

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



 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 5 

imageBrad Absher and the Superials – Tulsa Tea

Horton Records

8 songs – 30 minutes

Tulsa Tea is singer/guitarist Brad Absher’s eighth album and is a delightful gumbo of roots rock and Southern Soul music, all informed and influenced by a heavy dose of the blues. Produced by Chris Combs and recorded at Paradise Studio at Grand Lake in Tijuana, OK, Tulsa Tea has a warmth and soul that recalls some of the great albums previously recorded at the same studio in the 1970s by the likes of JJ Cale, Freddie King, Bob Seger and its original owner, Leon Russell.

Absher wrote or co-wrote all but one of the songs and Combs captured some first-rate performances from Absher and his band, comprising Matt Martin on drums and percussion, Dylan Layton on bass, Jake Hemphill on guitar, EZ Mireles on keyboards, Danny Timms on Wurlitzer and Hammond Organ and Charlie Redd and Briana Wright on backing vocals. The No A/C Horns (Zak Elkins on baritone and bass sax, Andy McCormich on tenor sax and Matthew Leland on trombone) also feature.

The album opens with “Be The Love”, a stomping nod to late 60s soul, with its stabbing horns, uplifting lyrics, sweeping Hammond lines and an earworm of a chorus. It’s also reminiscent of mid-to-late-80s Fabulous Thunderbirds (à la “Stand Back” or “Wrap It Up”) and none the worse for that. The warm-hearted, optimistic lyrical slant continues in the loving “Neutral Ground” which features some gloriously melodic slide guitar as Absher good-naturedly pleads with his true love to work on loving compromise. By contrast, “Goodbye For Now” is a heart-breaking ode of love to Absher’s daughter, Madison, who died in 2016 aged just 24. Absher’s slide guitar weeps and cries in genuine anguish on one of the album’s highlights. The first verse of “As Hard As I Can” is a soul ballad with glorious Hammond organ, before segueing into a mid-paced stomper.

The heavy blues-rock of “Hard Times” picks up the pace further while concurrently addressing current day societal issues (as does the funky “Should Be Prayin’”). The sultry, jazz-inflected “So Tired” is the sole cover on the album, originally written by New Orleans’ The Iguanas. The closing track, “Turn It Up” returns to the soul theme, with superb guest vocals from Tulsa powerhouse Briana Wright.

Absher is a fine guitar player and an equally impressive singer, his muscular, rough-hewn voice fits the material perfectly, articulating passion and vulnerability in equal measure.

Tulsa Tea is a relatively short album, clocking in at only half an hour, but it’s also a highly enjoyable and rewarding release. If your tastes lean towards bluesy roots and Southern soul music, you will definitely want to check out this album.

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

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