Issue 16-29 July 21, 2022

Cover photo © 2022 Bruce Newman

 In This Issue 

Anita Schlank has our feature interview with Adam Gussow. We have six Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Cliff Stevens, Seth Walker, Al Blake, Randy McAllister, Waterstreet Blues Band and Micki Free. Scroll down and check it out!



 Featured Interview – Adam Gussow 

imageAdam Gussow is, quite simply, one of the most intriguing individuals in the blues world. He has not only had an extremely successful career as a musician (first as a blues harmonica player, then as a one-man band), but he also earned his doctorate and has dual appointments as a university professor teaching both English and Southern Studies (with a specialty in blues literature and culture). In addition, he was the subject of a documentary film, was featured in the U2 documentary (Rattle and Hum), has created numerous harmonica tutorial videos, and has authored several exceptional books with blues-related themes.

Gussow was born in New York and while his parents were not musicians, he traces his musicianship to his father, who was a record collector with wide tastes but a special fondness for jazz recordings. He noted that in the collection were 78’s of Cab Calloway and Bessie Smith, along with works by Artie Shaw and various boogie-woogie selections. He described how after feeling somewhat alienated due to being the only ‘townie’ in a local private day school he decided to transform himself. He purchased Tony Glover’s books along with albums by Paul Oscher, Paul Butterfield, the three “Kings” of the blues, and Eric Clapton, and taught himself to play both harmonica and guitar.

“Learning them at the same time is a good thing. You learn how the blues pitches work, and you have a visual analog on the fretboard, which made it easier to conceptualize how to play it on the harmonica. I also attended an incredibly transformative concert when I was seventeen. It was the J. Geils Band with James Cotton as the opening act. I had one of Cotton’s albums and I loved Magic Dick’s ‘Whammer Jammer,’ but this was the first time I could see the players and really feel the power of the amped up harp stuff coming off the stage.”

Although he initially wanted to study audio engineering to be able to work with musicians, Gussow found that he hated computer science, so switched to studying English and American Literature. While working on his bachelor’s degree at Princeton, he joined his first band, a jazz fusion band.

“The band was called ‘Spiral’, and it was a sextet like the Crusaders and was modeled after the Crusaders. I played guitar in that band. I remember feeling the power of the brotherhood of being in the band. That brotherhood is so important. It is one thing that has continued to mark my career.”

Gussow received his master’s degree in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University and also attended the Berklee College of Music one summer, where he studied jazz guitar for seven weeks. However, there he discovered that while he loved to listen to jazz, he was not a jazz guitarist. It was around the time that his first serious love relationship ended that he found himself seeking more blues music.

image“I began to busk and ran into Nat Riddles, who became my harmonica teacher. He was six years older than me and a legend in New York blues circles, so he was kind of like a big brother. He heard me on the street, and we started talking and he said he could teach me how to tongue block and play like Kim Wilson, Sugar Blue and John Lee Williamson. I gave up playing guitar at that point and put it all into the harmonica.”

Gussow reported that he not only listened to the harmonica greats, but also listened to saxophonists. He realized that if he copied harmonica players, it would be clear that he was just copying them, but if he mimicked saxophonists, it sounded much more unique. Therefore, he interpreted solos by Houston Person, Hank Crawford, and King Curtis using his harmonica. Early in 1986 he began going to the jazz clubs in Harlem–a time when very few white people were visible in Harlem. None of the musicians in the clubs were playing harmonica, and he soon earned the respect of both audiences and his fellow musicians. He reported that one day when he was driving through Harlem, he spotted a man singing while playing guitar and percussion in the street and he stopped to listen. He asked if he could play with the man, who called himself “Mr. Satan”, and when he did, people started gathering to hear the two of them. He later discovered that Mr. Satan was actually Sterling Magee, who had backed such greats as King Curtis, Etta James, Marvin Gaye, and James Brown. Magee also had a brief solo career but had gotten disillusioned with the music business when he realized his record producer, Ray Charles, would take steps to ensure that no artist on his label outshone him.

“People say I must have been brave to be in Harlem at that time, but I didn’t feel brave. Once I started playing with Sterling and saw the positive response from the audience, it just felt right. It was a time when New York had a very high murder rate, but I never heard a gun or saw a gun. I didn’t think that was happening where we were, although later a Village Voice writer, Peter Noel, told me that he was hanging out with militant Black Nationalists just around the corner from where we were playing and they were not happy with the fact that I was out there. And he said, ‘Frankly, Adam, I’m surprised they didn’t take you out,’ so maybe it was more dangerous than I realized. But it was such a great gift to be able to play with this amazing musician. Then, pretty early on in our relationship, Mr. Satan got a second high-hat cymbal and he took off like a shot, doing much more complex rhythms.

image“He developed that incredible percussion sound while I was there. I think I provoked a little bit of it. My harp was adding to his sound, and we became very intense–we really pushed each other in an amazing way. To the people who came to listen to us I was just the ‘white boy who played with Satan,’ but then we made a demo and I had to put a name on it, so I called us ‘Satan and Adam’. We started playing in other locations, including near Columbia University and down in Times Square, and I remember at one location I sold 60 of the demo cassettes in one hour, while I was playing! I was trying to play and would have to stop to take their ten dollars and shove it in my pocket.”

After several years of playing together in New York, Magee and Gussow were discovered by Margo Lewis of Talent Consultants International and began touring internationally as “Satan and Adam.” They were featured in festivals such as the Chicago Blues Festival, the Newport Jazz Festival, the King Biscuit Blues Festival and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. They also toured with Bo Diddley and opened for such greats as Buddy Guy and Otis Clay. They released three albums together, and their first album, Harlem Blues, was nominated for a W.C. Handy Award for Traditional Blues Album of the Year. However, not every aspect of their expanded success was easy. For example, Magee’s common-law wife would usually travel with the duo. According to Gussow, she suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and would experience auditory hallucinations, so this sometimes caused traveling to be a challenge. Magee also displayed some eccentric behaviors, although more often he was focused on delivering joyful advice about living in the moment.

“His whole life was devoted to not being neurotic. He didn’t believe we should condemn what we do. If you are going to have a drink, have a drink and don’t regret it. He thought we should live without regrets, and we shouldn’t second-guess ourselves. It taught me a basic lesson—you can get through things you think you can’t. It toughened me up and that was one of the many lessons working with him. I didn’t think he was crazy—quirky but not crazy.”

However, Magee disappeared one day in 1998 without notice to Gussow, and it was later learned that he had experienced a breakdown requiring psychiatric treatment. With no sign of Magee, it appeared that their performing days had ended. But, at the same time that he had been successfully touring, Gussow had returned to Princeton and managed to complete most of his Ph.D. So, in 2002, he accepted a position as a professor at the University of Mississippi and decided to focus primarily on his university career. He did still find ways to host blues symposiums and conferences, helped in part by the recognition he’d gained as the author of a book about his time with Magee, entitled “Mister Satan’s Apprentice: A Blues Memoir” (1998) and graced with the “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award from the Blues Foundation.

In 2007, after five years in Mississippi, Gussow also started to release harmonica tutorial videos.

“I decided to make some videos to share some insights I had developed over the years as a player, and then kind of got possessed and made forty videos in forty days. Surprisingly, nobody had ever taught blues harmonica by offering downloadable videos and tab sheets, so I was the first person to figure out that could be done. However, I knew very little about the Internet, for example, I didn’t know about file hosting, and had to learn some things pretty quickly once I had several hundred YouTube subscribers.

image“When I’m dead and gone if anybody knows about me, it will probably be from my YouTube videos, not Satan and Adam, because they taught a lot of people. People always come up to me and say they feel they know me because they are always playing along with my videos.”

For his next book, Gussow initially had hoped to write about transracial creativity beyond the color line but got diverted, early in his graduate school career, by his interest in the violent themes in the blues world.

“This was the period we had the LA uprising, and we had the OJ Simpson case. I remember being in a seminar on black intellectual tradition when Simpson was acquitted. Newsweek magazine had covers insisting that black and white Americans were living in two separate worlds. My initial desire was to write about transracial creativity beyond the color line, but I got turned in a different direction. I started thinking about the way that various sorts of violence showed up in the blues. You know the first recorded blues song, “Crazy Blues,” ended in a violent way, with a black woman fantasizing about shooting a cop. I wrote a dissertation about three different kinds of violence in the blues.”

Gussow’s book, “Seems Like Murder Here: Southern Violence and the Blues Tradition” sheds light on a tragic period of lynching and mob vigilantism that is documented in blues lyrics. This book was the winner of the 2004 C. Hugh Holman Award from the Society for the Study of Southern Literature.

Throughout Gussow and Magee’s time performing together, there were filmmakers who had become very interested in the duo, and they started filming footage for a documentary entitled “Satan and Adam.” The filmmakers were able to locate Sterling Magee, who was living in a nursing home in Florida having suffered, among other ailments, a stroke. He appeared so debilitated that he was unable to play a guitar, but with encouragement from others he slowly regained his ability to sing and just enough dexterity on guitar to hold down the rhythm. In 2007 Magee and Gussow reunited to play a few gigs, initially adding a drummer (since Magee could no longer play percussion). When the drummer died unexpectedly in 2011, Gussow, who had been playing foot drums for several years, filled in and became the duo’s new rhythm section. A wonderful moment in the film showed that Gussow and Magee were able to return to play at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 2013, twenty-two years after their debut in 1991. Sadly, there will be no future reunions, as Magee recently passed away due to complications secondary to COVID.

While focusing primarily on his teaching and writing career during his time at Ole Miss, Gussow realized that he still wanted to record music, so in 2010, he released a solo album entitled “Kick and Stomp”. It was recorded live, with no overdubs, and featured Gussow as a one-man band singing and playing both harmonica and foot drum.

“This was a watershed moment for me. It was the first thing I had done on my own after all the Satan and Adam stuff. You know, I was not just Satan’s boy, not the strong second fiddle, but was doing my own thing. In our heyday, he was the percussionist and now I’m the percussionist. It was an uncanny transformation. Life forces us into unexpected growth and transformation. That the solo album sold well and my first video as a solo player got four and a half million views, a version of ‘Crossroads Blues,’ was by far the most popular thing I’ve ever done.”

imageIn 2012, Gussow joined forces with another professor at the University of Mississippi, Alan Gross, who also had dual careers in academia and music. They became “The Blues Doctors” and recorded two albums together. Gussow also authored another book in 2017 entitled “Beyond the Crossroads: The Devil and the Blues Tradition” which investigates the presence of the devil image in blues lyrics. This was named the Best Blues Book by Living Blues Readers’ Poll and won the John C. Cawelti Award for being the best textbook in popular culture.

In 2018 the documentary “Satan and Adam” was finally completed after over twenty years in the making. It premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was streaming on Netflix and Amazon prime. Gussow reported that frequently people tell him that the film moves them to tears.

“Woven into the documentary is a message about interracial brotherhood, what Martin Luther King, Jr. called beloved community, and that’s something we don’t hear enough about these days. I think Sterling and I kept that alive in a way that moved people when they saw it imaged in the documentary, and I think the blues world should offer more images of that kind of thing.”

Magee’s nephew, Rod Patterson, saw the documentary and contacted Gussow.

“I got an email from Rod. He said he did anti-bullying work and was a singer and a dancer. He said he could sing his uncle’s songs and asked if I wanted to put something together. It turns out he had actually contacted me at some point ten years earlier, but I never got back to him. I don’t know why. This time I thought, ‘Why not? What do we have to lose?’ Alan Gross and I decided to go to the studio with him and see what happened and it felt amazing from the get-go. We initially didn’t know what to call ourselves, but we decided to keep his stage name from his anti-bullying work, Sir Rod, and we became Sir Rod and the Blues Doctors. I’m 64 and Alan is 70 and we didn’t really have a front man, so it’s great to have Rod, who is a legit front man. He provided exactly what we needed because he upped the singing and performance element. We are doing a range of music. Some of it is Satan and Adam repertoire, and that feels great, but we are also meeting Rod where he is. We’re making it work and I think there is a market for us out there.”

Of course, starting a new band while teaching full-time at a university would not be enough for this master multitasker, and Gussow has recently authored another book. “Whose Blues? Facing Up to Race and the Future of Music” is a well-researched candid description of the diametrically opposed views regarding whether the blues is multi-cultural or whether whites are guilty of cultural appropriation. It was included in the prestigious list of Choice Outstanding Academic Titles for 2021.

image“Some people think the presence of white blues songwriters and musicians is a relatively new phenomenon, as if the music had not been shaped early on by white songwriters. We need to be aware of when white people actually came to the blues, and I invite people to read more about that in the book. I know that sometimes there can seem to be an element of blackface minstrelsy or racial burlesque when white artists perform, which can make for lightweight, forgettable blues. However, when you hear someone like Tab Benoit or Watermelon Slim singing from deep within their souls, that’s not a problem. You don’t have to throw a huge racial sword on the music.”

When asked if there are any contemporary blues artists that he enjoys, Gussow mentioned Aki Kumar (a harmonica player originally hailing from Mumbai, India), Memphissippi Sounds, Southern Avenue, and Jason Ricci.

“Aki Kumar blows me away. He is a brilliant payer and writes interesting songs. He is interesting also because he made the decision at a certain point to heighten his ethnic self-presentation, wearing native Indian clothing and doing songs that were written, in part, in Hindi. The Memphissippi Sounds have a great thing going on, and I like that an Israeli guy gets together with two young black women, and they end up conquering the world with Southern Avenue. They show you what you can do, making new music. It’s blues but with an R&B side that interests me. Then there is my pal, Jason Ricci. I love what he does. He is doing things no other amplified blues player has ever done with overblows on the harmonica. And he’s open about his struggles with substance abuse, but he didn’t become a member of the “27 Club” like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Robert Johnson, and other gifted blues musicians did. He picked himself up, humbled himself, and kept on living. He is such an inspiration and is playing better than ever.”

Ricci has equal admiration for Gussow. He noted that “Gussow is much more than an academic or an educator. He is one of the best and certainly most unique blues harmonica players alive. The way he swings and the way he accompanied Mr. Satan were as supportive, beautiful, and funky as this instrument is capable of doing. For blues he is one of my favorite players alive and in my top ten ever. Quite simply I wouldn’t be the player I am without his contributions to music and to me personally. I am very grateful to have him as role model and a friend for over 30 years.”

Adam Gussow’s books are available through Amazon and other vendors, his tutorial videos are available at, and you can find out more about his new band and their tour dates at

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 

imageCliff Stevens – Better Days

Self Release

12 songs – 47 minutes

Better Days is Montreal-based Cliff Stevens’ fifth solo release, in which he continues to mine that apparently inexhaustible blues-rock vein that has served the likes of Rory Gallagher, Johnny Winter and Eric Clapton so well.

Produced by Stevens and recorded and mixed by Simon Jodoin at Studio MegaRex in Montreal, Better Days features 12 self-written tracks, which range from driving blues-rock to acoustic country blues. The album opens with the loping title track in which Stevens looks forward with optimism to better days (the entire album was written and recorded during the Covid pandemic). He sings in husky tones that perfectly match his rocky but melodic guitar playing. Eric Sauvé’s excellent organ enhances the upbeat mood. “Passion” follows, with an acoustic slide guitar opening verse before the full band picks up the groove and drives it forward. Kim Feeney’s backing vocals complement Stevens’ lead vocals perfectly. Stevens’ electric slide solo is top notch.

Stevens’ band is impressive throughout, featuring (in addition to Sauvé and Feeney) Serge Dionne on bass, Sam Harrisson on drums and Pat Loiselle on harmonica. Stevens handles all the guitar duties.

The funky “No Room Left” highlights Sauvé’s superb piano playing, while the minor key “I Believe” slows the pace but contains another uplifting lyric and more excellent vocal interplay between Stevens and Feeney.

The dreamy “Heard You Knocking” features some of Stevens’ most effective guitar playing on the album and sounds like the sort of song that Jeff Healey would have loved to have got his teeth into. The upbeat shuffle of “Time For Me To Go” leads nicely into the soul ballad “Light Of An Angel” in which Stevens pays moving tribute to his late brother. “I Love You Still” is a more traditional slow blues with more fine guitar playing and a nod or two to the great Freddie King.

The driving “True Love” benefits from more exquisite piano playing from Sauvé, while “You Hurt Me” is a minor key blues that sits well next to the Clapton-esque slow blues of “I Been Thinking About You.”

The album ends with a lovely finger-picked acoustic instrumental “Slim Picking”, which features a variety of over-dubbed guitars.

Stevens’ singing voice is not quite as fluid as his guitar playing. Overall, however, this is a very impressive release from an obvious talent. The songs are very well written, acknowledging his influences but articulated very much in his own style. They are played with panache, emotion and impressive technical ability and the recording is also high quality.

Well worth checking out.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 6 

imageSeth Walker – I Hope I Know

Royal Potato Family

10 songs – 34 minutes

One of the most introspective tune-smiths on the scene today, Seth Walker takes listeners on an unhurried, roller coaster of emotion with his latest CD. The 11th solo release in his career, it’s an intimate effort that deals with the uncertainties of life and his own recovery from personal upheavals caused by the end of a longtime love affair and a career upended because of COVID-19. Despite the dark theme, it serves up salve for the soul for anyone who’s suffered the same fate.

Born in rural North Carolina into a family of classically trained musicians, Seth took up cello at age three but turned to the guitar and the blues in his teens after his discovery of B.B. King, Ray Charles, T-Bone Walker and Snooks Eaglin. Possessing a warm voice and a light touch on the strings, he’s been infusing aspects of his personal life through his songs since the beginning of his recording career.

A 15-year veteran of the Austin music scene, he relocated to Nashville in the late 2000s after forming an enduring songwriting partnership with Grammy-winner Gary Nicholson, who produced his Leap of Faith CD in 2009 and co-wrote several of the tunes. With his world caving in, Walker uprooted himself to Asheville, N.C., two years ago, where he worked through his troubles, waited for his world to start spinning again and put the finishing touches on this album, a follow-up to the soulful Are You Home?, which debuted in the No. 2 spot on Billboard’s blues chart in 2019.

Engineered by Brook Sutton at The Studio Nashville and produced by longtime collaborator Jano Rix, who contributes keyboards, percussion, bass and backing vocals to the mix, this one was recorded in multiple settings with contributions from J.P. Ruigerri (slide guitar), Matt Glassmeyer (horns), Myles Weeks and Rhees Williams (bass), Tommy Perkinson (drums) and Canadian roots superstar Allison Russell (backing vocals).

A collection of seven originals – three co-written with Nicholson, three with Oliver Wood, front man of the Wood Brothers, and one with Jarrod Dickenson, Walker cuts to the chase with the opener, “The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be,” a wry observation about the roadblocks life throws in your way, noting “the world flipped around and slowed me down…I must say I am glad to see a change in me.” The self-reflection continues in “Wh

y Do I Cry Anymore,” a percussive number that questions how to recover from a broken heart.

Based on a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, the title track, “Hope I Know,” addresses forgiveness and features Russell before Seth delivers “Remember Me,” a jazzy number delivered in falsetto, which deals with memories that never fade. An interesting blues infused with Buddhist ideology, “Satisfy My Mind,” follows before covers of Bobby Charles’ “Tennessee Blues,” which reflects on his latest move, and Van Morrison’s “Warm Love,” which provides

a little respite.

Three more numbers — “River,” a languorous ballad that draws similarities to running water and the strength that flows within all of us, Bob Dylan’s “Buckets of Rain” and “Peace in the Valley” – bring the emotional journey to a close.

If you’re looking for something upbeat and frenetic, look elsewhere. But if you’re soul searching, I Hope I Know will strike a positive chord for you.

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 

imageAl Blake – Doctor Blake’s Magic Soul Elixir No.2

Soul Sanctuary – 2022

18 tracks: 61 minutes

Al Blake was the singer/harmonica player/main songwriter for The Hollywood Fats Band and The Hollywood Blue Flames, as well as contributing to a host of West Coast blues recordings. However, recordings under his own name have been few and far between, this disc being a sequel to an earlier Dr Blake’s Magic Soul Elixir in 2002. I have not heard the earlier disc, but I believe that it was a band disc, whereas this one is definitely an acoustic effort, mainly Al solo on acoustic guitar and a little harp, eight cuts being solo; long-time collaborator Fred Kaplan adds piano to ten tracks and Kirk Fletcher appears on just a single track. Writing credits include eleven of Al’s originals and seven covers of blues from masters such as Big Bill Broonzy and Tampa Red.

The album opens with a run of seven solo performances, a short harp instrumental take on Charles Davenport’s “Cow Cow Blues” before “Rocky Mountain Blues”, a Clarence Williams tune, sung convincingly over a mournful rhythm on the guitar before the third track, about which there is some confusion. On the CD artwork the song is credited as “Satisfy My Soul”, but in fact it is “Sweet Pea”, a traditional sounding blues about which I could not discover any information (though it is clearly not the same tune as that by Tommy Roe of “Dizzy” fame, as Google suggested). Joe Willie Wilkins of Memphis is the source for “It’s Too Bad”, a loping blues played well on guitar, as is Al’s own “Precious Time” which has all the characteristics of a classic country blues. “Greasy Greens” is a Peg Leg Sam tune which Al plays on harp and foot stomp before ending the solo section with the traditional-sounding blues of “The Land Of Calio”.

Fred Kaplan appears on the next ten tracks, starting with some fine piano on an instrumental entitled “Garber Street”. Kirk Fletcher adds guitar to the cover of Big Bill’s “Too Many Drivers”, allowing Al to blow some great harp and deliver the lyrics convincingly. “Music Man” is the longest cut on the album and is labelled as ‘Alternate Take’ on the CD data, a slow blues that seems to be about Al’s former bandmate Hollywood Fats who, of course, passed away far too soon at just 32 years of age. The pace picks up for “Black Chilli Pepper”, a song that also lists “champagne and cocaine” as potential ingredients! We then go back to the 1920’s for a cover of Arthur Petties’ “Out On Santa Fe Blues” before two songs with very traditional blues titles, “Lulu” and “Red Beans And Rice”; however, both are Al’s originals, “Lulu” clearly based on traditional themes and “Red Beans And Rice” a fine instrumental featuring Fred’s piano playing. Tampa Red’s “Things About Coming My Way” is a familiar song and is followed by “Santa Fe Whistle Blues”, Al’s take on those blues that use trains as a theme. The final tune with piano is “You Don’t Know My Mind”, another slow blues, before Al closes with “Old Time Boogie”, bookending the album with another instrumental feature for his harp.

Al is a multi-talented guy and his lived-in vocals are particularly well complemented by the piano work on the ten cuts on which Fred Kaplan appears. This album will delight all lovers of traditional acoustic blues.

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 

imageRandy McAllister – Power Without Power

Reaction Records

11 songs – 50 minutes

A fifth-generation Texan and songwriter with a unique point of view, Randy McAllister is a triple threat on harmonica, drums and vocals, but leaves the skins to others but simply dazzles on this release, a highly percussive set of this hard-to-define collection of original acoustic blues and roots.

McAllister grew up in the country about 30 miles south of Abilene, where his dad split his time between working as a fireman and keeping the beat in a band called The Flames. He followed in his father’s footsteps by buying his first kit with his own money but fell in love with the harp while serving in the Air Force and stationed in Massachusetts in his early 20s.

It was there that he fell under the spell of the enigmatic “Earring” George Mayweather, who was born in Alabama but was schooled in Chicago by Little Walter before being enlisted by slide-guitar master J.B. Hutto for the first iteration of his band, The Hawks. McAllister relocated to Alaska in the late ‘80s, where he honed his skills in local bands, before moving back to the Lone Star State, where he worked as the front man for Mike Morgan & the Crawl, a young Andrew “Jr. Boy” Jones and longtime Doyle Bramhall guitarist Robin Syler.

Randy’s recording career began on Britain’s JSP imprint in the late ‘90s. The 15th solo effort in his catalog, this one was recorded by Duane Trower at Weights and Measures Soundlab in Kansas City and features sparce backing from guitarists Brandon Hudspeth (Levee Town/Dustin Arbuckle) and Howard Mahan, who sits in on three cuts. Two-time Blues Blast Music Awards winner Heather Newman and Jack McAllister make guest appearances on backing vocals.

A simple slide guitar run opens “Surprise!!!” before Randy’s melismatic vocals address a lady who’s the subject of differing rumors about her actions in a hotel room. His strong, lilting runs on the reeds are layered beneath his words and provide a sweet counterpoint to his message: Whatever transpired is no shock because no one else knows her like he does. The mood brightens somewhat for “Face First,” an allegory about perseverance that finds the singer at the bottom of a hill with a mouth full of dirt but determined to get to the top.

The rootsy “(Somebody) Ease My Troublin’ Mind” yearns for reassurance from a woman that everything’s going to be all right and features melismatic vocals before the ballad, “Son,” promises that the singer will always be there to watch him and lend a hand as he evolves into the man he’ll become. The rapid-fire, deep-in-the-beat blues, “Envy’s Embrace,” serves up more advice not to be swayed by falsehoods that could keep him from his goals.

The focus changes with “Sweet Spot,” which heaps praise on a lady who knows the singer so well, before “C’mon Brothers and Sisters” takes listeners to church and urges “don’t let the heart be ruled by what the world shows you” because there’s “a whole lot of ugly truth” standing in your way.

Things quiet for the somber “Not Everybody Leaves (Her Words),” which states that the singer knows his lady’s going to split but begs her not to tell him when she goes, before a Latin beat drives “Donnie Downer.” Fear not…it’s not a political statement, just a complaint about McAllister needing to spill his guts after a rough day and the only person around to talk to is someone who interrupts to tell a story of his own. Two more numbers — “Clear My Head,” which celebrates quiet nights in a small town, and the ballad “Like Nothin’ Else,” about the need to make choices based on how they’ll soothe the soul – bring the disc to an upbeat close.

If you’re a fan of great songwriting, you’ll love this one. As good as Randy McAllister’s voice and harp playing are, his words are even better!

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 – 5 of 6 

imageWaterstreet Blues Band – Talkin About

self released

9 songs, 39 minutes

Canadian roots rocking Blues group Waterstreet Blues Band is a high end bar band. This quintet with dueling lead vocals, hard driving rhythm section and at times tongue in cheek songwriting chops, clearly love playing together. Rob Deyman on guitars, Silvia Dee on keys, accordion and lead vocals, Paul Sapounzi on bass and lead vocals, Jonny Sauder on drums, and Chris “Junior” Malleck on harp fashion an amorphous Blues experience. Not indebted to one tradition or another, the band can be best described as Blues Rock on their sophomore outing Talkin About.

This is a cohesive band effort with a twist. Title track opener features Sapounzi on vocals over a jumpy descending boogie with a hint of Elvis Costello’s best late 70’s tricks. When juxtaposed to other Sapounzi vehicles like the “Smokestack Lightnin’’ riffed original about a boozy lady “Vodka Drinkin Woman” or the slow Blues of “Mean Vicious Woman,” one view of Waterstreet is a band with a classic male centric woman-did-me-wrong aesthetic. But it is the detached cool of Silvia Dee’s vocal delivery on the Samantha Fish cover “Miles to Go,” the slinky original “Riverside Child,” the Slim Harpo styled road song “Don’t Stop” or the gypsy rave up of Tom Wait’s “Temptation,” that gives this record depth. The addition of Dee’s accordion on a number of tunes also skews away from a bar brawl and 2 steps over to a funky swamp boil.

Waterstreet Blues Band is a solid band with a solid sound. All the players are adept and talented. Guitars slide and bend, the bass and drums thump and thrum. The 2 punch vocals are strong. It would be cool to hear a duet or 2 from these strong singers, but the alternating voices add a nice counterpoint when the album is considered as a whole. The group has a chemistry that jumps out of the speakers. This is fun music that is obviously fun to hear live.

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 – 6 of 6 

imageMicki Free – Turquoise Blue

Dark Idol Music Co.

14 songs time – 60:11

Guitar slinger-singer Micki Free mainly eschews his given title of blues-rocker for heavy-handed noisy guitar-based rock. He claims Irish, Cherokee and Apache bloodlines. His band consists of the usual suspects of keyboards, bass and drums, along with a list of guest stars. In the midst of the guitar bashing he manages moments of mellowness. His voice traverses the spectrum from harsh rocker to sensitive rocker. Fans of 70s arena rock will feel right at home here.

Aside from his spot on cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along The Watchtower”, Jimi’s influence appears on a few tracks. As on “World-On Fire”, Micki’s guitar can pierce the air with a confident attack. Andy Vargas handles the vocals on this song. Throughout the proceedings various guitar heavy hitters contribute to the kaos-Steve Stevens(Billy Idol), Gary Clark,Jr. and Christone “Kingfish” Ingram.

“The Big Regret”, “Spring Fever” and “Blue Memories” find the music in a more mellow and introspective mood. The more prevalent sound here is the “balls to the walls” power chord rock manifested in songs like “Ridin-420”, “Bye 2020”, “Heavy Mercy”, “Invitation Love” and “Ring Of Fire”. Micki unleashes a virtual guitar onslaught with occasional assists from guest axe-slingers. A Hendrix-like vibe energizes “Heavy Mercy”, with some riffs almost sound like they were lifted from a Hendrix track. I give this as a compliment. He applies the master’s sound to create something of his own.

“Invitation-Love” is a nice wah-wah crazed rocker with Hendrix twiddling magic. Trish Bowden lends her wailing pipes to “Come Home Big Man” as she shares the vocal duty with Micki. Micki’s blazing guitar and Mark “Muggy Do” Leach’s piano combine with the vocals to make this an intense workout. Blues guitar phenom Christone “Kingfish” Graham” contributes a high energy blues solo to “Judicator Blues”, the only blues-rock tune here. Another blues-rock hero, Gary Clark,Jr. does the same for “Woman”. “Blue Memories” takes things out on a mellow vibe as it leads off with ringing acoustic guitar underneath whimsical electric guitar flourishes that can only be called elegant as they drift through the air.

The music here varies from hard hitting rock to more eloquent rock musings. Supporting Micki’s effort is an able band consisting of Soaring “Hawk” Lopez on drums, Ken “Mojo Man” Riley on bass, Mark “Muggy Do” Leach on keyboards and Trish Bowden on background vocals. That, along with the various special guest contributions. It all harkens back to the days when some of the heavy rockers included some lighter songs in their repertoire. A well-blended album of various approaches. Worth checking out.

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

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