Issue 16-3 January 20, 2022

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Cover photo © 2022 Scott Doubt Photography


 In This Issue 

Bucky O’Hare has our feature interview with Sue Foley. We have six Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Tedi Brunetti, Rene Trossman, Chris English, Pat Fulgoni, Davis Hall & The Green Lanterns and Zydeco Playboys. Scroll down and check it out!


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 Featured Interview – Sue Foley 

image“I learned everything (hanging out at Antone’s). And sometimes what you really learn is from just watching how these people interact, these musicians interact. I was almost more fascinated hanging out backstage. In fact I’m sure I was. Playin’ with them was one thing but actually watching them all talk and hanging out together, interact, was very fun. So maybe it was that, that I cherish almost the most was those casual moments.”

Sue Foley is a modern Texas Blueswoman. A disciple of Gatemouth Brown, friend and collaborator of Jimmie Vaughan and student of Lou Ann Barton and Lavelle White from the 2nd great heyday of Austin’s Blues mecca Antone’s in the early 90’s; Foley plays, sings and writes with real deal Texas cred. Expressing herself deeply with heat and swagger that she has developed over an over 30 year career (she started as a teenager) Sue has a unique bran of Texas Blues that is reverential to the past but thoroughly modern and relevant. Foley’s Blues are simultaneously deadly serious and uproariously fun. Foley learned from her predecessors who she had the presence of mind to seek out, that you live your Blues, that the time on stage is just one part of being a musician.

Sue Foley’s music is inseparable from her iconic pink paisley Telecaster guitar aptly named Pinky. Sue’s newest album, the honest and present Pinky’s Blues, is a love letter and six string clinic.

“The story of Pinky is,” she reminisces, ”I’ve had this guitar for 30 plus years now. Guitars, yeah you kinda need to work them in.”

Sue got Pinky in the late 80’s originally as a gift from a boyfriend.

“I paid it off, it was one of these where ‘I’m gonna bring you the guitar home honey, but it’s your guitar.’ So it’s my guitar, it wasn’t just a gift, you know. I made the payments.”

“I’ve used her on every gig, every recording session from then on up to this album. I played her yesterday on a gig. If I’m doing hometown gigs I play her, I don’t bring her on the road anymore. It’s just kinda like I’ve got this bond with this instrument. She still sounds great, in fact I think she sounds better than ever which is amazing.”

Sue did not stand a chance as a child – she was destined to be a guitar player. In her native Ottawa Sue came from a musical family.

“I come from a family of guitar players, my father and and my 3 older brothers all played. I was just always drawn to it, they were everywhere. By the time I was 13, I was ready. I asked my Dad for one for Christmas and I think he just gave me one of the guitars that nobody was playing. Here, have this one, no one’s playing this one (laughs). So I just took to it and I had one of my brothers show me a few chords”

A young child in the 70’s with 4 guitarists in the house, the great Blues based explorations of the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin along with the genre defying innovations of the Beatles influenced Sue deeply.

“I came up in an era of heavy guitar music played really wild (laughing). Rock culture, it was just that time.”

But, in the testosterone drenched Rock of the 70’s, it was not easy to find female guitar role models.

“You know, seeing someone like Charo. I definitely had female guitar icons, not necessarily in Blues music, that inspired me that I could play the instrument too. So Charo, Nancy Wilson, the women I saw holding guitars in that era when I was a little kid in the 70’s. It was a good time. So I just wanted to play it too. That was it, I just kinda always knew.”

A few years out of high school and already a seasoned touring musician, Sue set her sights in the early 90’s on the Blues that were coming out of Austin, Texas; specifically the infamous club Antone’s and the larger than life proprietor Clifford Antone.

“Well it was awesome,” she effuses. “I was so in love with the sound coming out of Austin. It was very distinctive to Austin, right? It didn’t sound like Dallas, I mean there was some stuff in Dallas that sounded sorta like it but different. Didn’t sound like Houston, didn’t sound like old Texas Blues, it was this whole new Blues sound. That was what was happening in the air.”

imageSue found a home even in that rarified air of talent swirling around.

“The fact that I got down here as a Canadian and a girl playing guitar too. Not just a Canadian, but a Canadian female playin’ guitar in Austin, that’s badass. Fuckin’ Austin had some crazy fuckin’ guitar players, you know, crazy. It’s like yeah man, you’d think it’d be like being thrown to the sharks right? But it wasn’t like that at all, it was the opposite, everybody was real chill and inviting. If you could play you could play and everybody was cool. So I felt very much at home as soon as I got here, very welcome.”

With a group of like minded “kids,” Sue and her friends went to their own version of graduate school.

“I always liken it to my alma mater,” she shares. “I never went to college.”

At Antone’s University of Austin Blues Clifford Antone was the Dean. The local professors were Lavelle White, Lou Ann Barton, Denny Freeman, Kim Wilson, and many others. And a host of visiting lecturers taught master classes from the band stand.

“I mean we were at the club every night. And many nights no matter who was playing there, if Clifford Antone was in the house and it was 2am you’d be still playing music. He’d catch whatever musician was in the house and say ‘get up there and play.’ So all the ‘kid’ group would be there and just kinda waitin’ in the wings – maybe there’ll be a jam tonight – we did a lot of that. Then he would put me up on stage. I really jived with Derek O’Brien on guitar so Clifford put us up together as sort of the duo House guitar players in Antone’s House Band. And we got to back up everybody doing that. Okay I’ll tell you some names: Otis Rush, Hubert Sumlin, Pinetop, Jimmy Rogers, Snooky Prior, Willie ‘Big Eyes’ and Calvin, Earl King – it was just astounding. And everybody in Austin from Kim Wilson to Lou Ann and Angela Strehli, Denny Freeman, yeah just everybody. And everybody who was playing there, he would somehow get the young kids up to play with them. And all of us did that. He was very generous with me, actually with everybody.”

It was also through Clifford Antone’s generous nature and the camaraderie of the musicians that Sue learned how deeply the music runs.

“Clifford and we would all go eat after the shows,” Sue remembers conjuring up late night feasts at all night dinners where local musicians schmoozed with touring legends. “You got to kinda hang out and just be in their presence. I find that I learn more about music that way sometimes just by watching how musicians are. Their character, cause their character is their music. And you realize how they’re putting that forth on stage. It’s pretty cool.”

Sue was accepted into the Austin Blues community. Issuing her first solo record Young Girl Blues on Antone’s label in 1992, Sue moved into a different phase of her career.

“One of the first tours I did for the Antone’s record label was a tour called ‘Antone’s Women.’”

She recounts the killer package “which featured Lavelle White, Barbara Lynn, Angela Strehlii, Lou Ann Barton, Sarah Brown, Toni Price and then the Antone’s House Band with George Rains, Derek O’Brien – it was a really good show. It was a great show and a great line up.”

One of the musicians who had a deep impact on Sue both on and off the stage was Gatemouth Brown. The virtuoso Louisiana guitarist, fiddler and singer helped to define the modern Texas style of Blues as a student of T-Bone Walker in the 50’s.

“Oh I was influenced by Gate from so many aspects,” Sue confesses then chuckles: “But once again (haha) one of the best things about Gate was hanging out with Gate. That was the biggest insight you would ever get.”

Sue saw Gate play countless times and hung out with him very often.

“I saw him once at a dance hall out in the country in Texas. And he played Country music all night and he almost played fiddle all night. Ha, I mean totally the whole thing, he carried it, WOW. Other nights you’d be seeing him and he’d be playing Big Band Jazz. I love him, I just love him so much. Watching him play was awe inspiring”

imageBut, Sue was never sure that the iconoclastic musician ever remembered her from time to time.

“I had met Gate many times, we’ve gone out to eat together, we hung out with him, we always met his band. We saw them a lot. But Gate was older, he was in his 70’s and he was very cool and always nice, but I just didn’t know if he really remembered me from time to time.”

Sue shares a funny story about what she thinks is the last time she saw Gate, illustrating what a good-natured irascible character he was.

“So one time we were doing this show called Mountain Stage in West Virginia, pretty well known NPR radio show. Gatemouth was on the bill with us and I was so excited. And we were eating (before the show) and there’s this big dining area where it’s just kinda open to all the bands. I’m eating with my band and Gatemouth comes through the door and says (in a strong loud voice) ‘Where’s Sue Foley?’ And I just kinda turned red cause we’re in the middle of this busy room. My band is like ‘wholly shit Gate’s saying your name, man.’ So anyway what had happened was the week before I was interviewed by I think it was the LA Times, and it was about women in Blues. I had said in my interview, ‘I want to be the female Gatemouth Brown: I want to be 75, a wicked guitar player and ornery as hell.’

“Well I guess what had happened is he read it or someone in his band showed him and then they probably said ‘oh Gate hey that girl who said that thing is at this show.’ So he came up to me (ha) he goes ‘Ornery as hell? Whose ornery as hell? I’m not ornery as hell.’ And all his band is just laughing, they were just cutting up. So it was very cute. We hung out all afternoon and I played with him so it was really awesome. So I love Gate and he was ornery as hell and a wicked guitar player. Gatemouth was the shit.”

After a number of years in Austin recording, touring and being on the scene, in the late 90’s Sue moved back to her native Canada for a very special reason, she became a parent. “It’s been the most amazing thing,” she beams. “Having a child to me I mean that’s the topper really.” Like many creative people Sue had to figure out how to balance her unique lifestyle as an active touring musician and the demands of parenting her son, two things that can at times be at odds.

“I mean it’s great to have a career, it’s great to be a musician. I love what I do. I was glad I was able to keep doing it, but having a child and having him in my life it’s the best thing I ever did. Definitely changed my life for the better. It challenged me to be a better person and to work better, to work smarter. Because once you’re a parent you can’t really just waste time, you know, go fuck around or fuck off. You got to be there and be there for yourself and be there for them. And it’s really good for you, I mean it’s really good for me. I did manage with the help of my family so that’s why I went back to Canada. I mean having that support system was really really important for him and for me. So yeah that sort of grounded everything.”

Sue’s son is grown now. “My son’s out of graduate school now so I’m over the hump,” she boasts “I’m proud of it. I mean I did it, I managed to do it and never really do anything but what I’m doing. I think having him challenged me to keep strong that way, being able to do all these things.”

The now fully strengthened parent and artist, Sue moved back down South to Austin in the mid 20-teens and made a big artistic breakthrough with her 2018 stunner The Ice Queen. Sue decided to come back because one of her Antone’s classmates, the equally uniquely talented Hammond B3 organist Mike Flanigin, let her know that a new Antone’s had opened up. Foley and Flanigin struck up a partnership that spawned the Flanigin produced album.

“I started coming back for gigs and we did that album The Ice Queen cause I really loved Flanigin’s album The Drifter. He had just released that and man that on vinyl, it is sick. Like it sounds really good, that’s the thing I noticed and I realized he’d produced it himself. So it kinda spurred from that and then I ended up just moving back. I realized so many of my friends were still here – Lou Ann Barton and I got to be friends with Jimmie Vaughan. You know it just seemed like the scene was pretty cool here there’s a lot of cool musicians.”

For Sue’s debut back on the Austin scene, producer Flanigin tapped into some big name friends.

“Mike kinda called in everybody, all of his friends, which are my friends now too.” She recounts, “I didn’t know Whipper (Chris Layton, drummer of Double Trouble fame) that well, but Mike and Chris were friends. Charlie Sexton (of Bob Dylan’s band), Jimmie Vaughan, you know Jimmie was so gracious to come and do that. We had a ball and whoa.”

imageThe approach was for multiple sessions that played to each song’s unique character but also kept an in-the-moment live feel.

“You know that album was recorded in segments and you can kinda hear it. And it was recorded with different line-ups. Cause, Mike had an approach he had actually taken on his Drifter album, to treat the songs individually. Just about everything on that was recorded very spontaneously too. So you’re hearing a lot of first takes.”

For example Sue remembers a 5 piece horn section being brought in for just one song.

“God I’m wondering if it might have been just one song we had that (horn section) on, ‘If I Have Forsaken You.’ But that song, and I’m so proud of that, that was such a great arrangement. I mean I didn’t do the arrangement, I’m just proud I recorded it. It was John Mills that did the arrangement, one of the horn players. Just when I hear it, it sounds so amazing.”

Like all of us, Sue has been affected by the pandemic. Locked down, Foley and Flanigin stayed busy.

“We got a lot of good stuff out of last year,” she says. “I mean we got Pinky’s Blues, we got Mike’s album West Texas Blues too. We did a whole bunch of cool things. We started a show called the Texas Blues Party, I started a Patreon, I opened a shop. You know what I mean, I had time to do all these things so it was pretty cool in a lot of ways.”

But, when asked about her COVID record Sue retorts, “Honestly I don’t even want to associate it with COVID I’m so tired of the word, seriously. I really would prefer to focus on it as an act of creation that came out of challenging circumstances.”

“The recording process,” Sue says about Pinky’s Blues “was very bare because we weren’t quarantined together but we were seeing very few people as you know we all were. And it was pretty spread out even with the 5 of us but it was such a big open space (that they recorded in) that it was real comfortable and we made big sounds (haha).”

The 5 are Sue, Flanigin, Chris “Whipper” Layton, bassist Jon Penner and engineer Chris Bow. A record of mesmerizing style and honesty, Pinky’s Blues has a big open spacious quality to it that makes the guitar simply flourish. Sue explains:

“Yeah the guitar is right, they did an amazing job – Chris Bow and Mike Flanigin, they did an amazing job really micing everything. And everything was open, all the mics were open at the same time so the drum mics, you might be hearing guitar in the drum mics or the vocal mic was all kind of wide open.”

Sue Foley is a true artist in that she seems to be always searching for the core of the music, the artistic center of the work, and relating it to her aesthetic, her life experiences and her reality. Whether it is the sensuality in the come on of “Jimmie Lee” from The Ice Queen, the reverential history lesson of “Dallas Man” or the empowered romp of “Hurricane Girl” (both from Pinky’s Blues), Sue is always present and herself. Understanding early on that you can only play who you are and what you feel, Sue Foley expresses her truth, both personal and existential. She is definitely not ornery as hell like her inspiration Gate, but she is a wicked guitar player and a powerful iconoclastic artist.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m busier when I’m at home (haha) these days. Touring is like a break, I swear there’s a lot of hats to wear in the music world you know. Yeah I seriously work more at home so I’m looking forward to the break of going on the road (laughs). I’m workin’ on a book, I’m workin’ on a PHD, I have a business, I have my own LLC and I’ve got people that work for me, I’m doin’ it all.”

For more about Sue Foley check out https://suefoley.com/

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


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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6

imageTedi Brunetti – Queen of Pittsburgh

Self released

www.tedibrunetti.com

9 songs, 37 minutes

Music that is led by a drummer has a unique sound. When the drums are the focal point, rhythm and the music that the drummer band leader lays out changes the role of the other instruments and creates a different physical experience for the listener. Local rock and roots first lady of drumming Tedi Brunetti’s new record Queen of Pittsburgh is a great example of a drum-centric fully realized personal artistic statement. A short 9 song blast of original material, Queen is a thoroughly modern sounding, clean statement of Contemporary Blues with an art house edge.

Tedi Brunetti is a veteran drummer. Coming up in the 80’s driving local bands that opened for The Clash and other national acts, Brunette has had a rich and varied career in music. Lead guitar husband of 44 years Jim Mason and co-producers Michael Henegan on bass and Dean Allen Sargent on guitar from the core band. A host of other local musicians adding horns, guitars and keys including Brunetti and Mason’s son James and 2 of Brunetti’s sisters on background vocals fill out the sound.

Bassists and drummers have very special relationships. It is this collaboration, communion, that makes or breaks music. The interplay between Brunetti and bassist Henegan is central to this music, at times surprising and always complimentary. The cool Latin tinged throb of “Evil Woman” and the strident thump of “Same Old Blues” are clinics in how to play straight classic grooves with finesse and originality.

What makes Queen of Pittsburgh transcend into an artistic statement is Brunetti’s ragged vocals and unique songwriting perspective. Brunetti has a deep classically cool delivery that makes a listener think of Frank Sinatra, Marianne Faithful or Rickie Lee Jones. Writing reflections of life, love, modern times and her beloved ‘Burg, Brunetti brings the kind of plain spoken lyrical voice to detail her Pennsylvania world that Lou Reed brought to the infinitely deep streets of New York. Highlights include album opener the slinky swing “Eat, Sleep, Repeat” about the joys and tribulations of daily life. The sexy “Seduce You” is a mature come-on from a wife to her husband. Brunetti’s voice so come-hither it’s hard to believe this is someone’s grandmother singing about her bustier and inviting her man to check out her tattoos.

Title track “Queen of Pittsburgh” is something special. Brunetti and Henegan lay down a tough medium tempo rock beat with lots of air and space for father and son guitarists to offer the hardest most distorted work on the record. What sets this apart is the successful homage to their city. Ever since “Sweet Home Chicago” city based songs, especially modern ones, often sound hackneyed or overly fawning. Here Brunetti offers a hard scrabble love letter that comes with a sneer and the finger if you don’t like it.

Tedi Brunetti is quoted in the promotional material for this release saying this album was a legacy recording. “I wanted our grandchildren to know grandma and grandpa were cool once.” Queen of Pittsburgh is very cool and certainly leaves a lasting mark. It’s a unique sound from a unique talent.

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.


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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 6 

imageRene Trossman – Live in Prague

Hold It! Records

www.renetrossman.com

13 songs – 70 minutes

An ex-pat Chicagoan who’s been based out the Czech Republic since the mid-‘90s, guitarist Rene Trossman laid the groundwork for his career working at small West and South Side clubs in the Windy City. One listen to this extended set and you’ll know he did his homework because it shines like a diamond.

Influenced by Albert King, Muddy Waters, Magic Sam Junior Wells and Louis Myers, as a sideman, Trossman worked in support of Chick Willis, Byther Smith, Iceman Robinson, Eb Davis, Dietra Farr, Sharon Lewis and several other fixtures on the local scene from 1985 through 1994, when he emigrated to Prague. He’s been a fixture on the Central European blues scene ever since.

All of the material on this CD was captured at Jazz Dock club in Prague about a year before coronavirus put the world into lockdown, and Rene and his skintight five-piece backing unit deliver a collection of ten originals and three well-crafted covers – all of which are imbued with a contemporary urban feel.

Trossman is a rock-steady fret master who’s always well-modulated, and he possesses a pleasantly well-worn, slightly thin mid-range voice that lilts throughout. He’s backed by an all-Austrian lineup that includes Tomáš Homuta on piano, Jan Tengler on bass, Tomáš Vokurka on drums with Osian Roberts on sax and Roman Němec on trumpet. And virtually everything in this set will get you up and dancing.

“Ain’t Gonna Hurt Me No More,” a driving uptempo shuffle about a love affair gone bad, opens powered by keys and horns and allowing plenty of space for Trossman and Homuta to display their talents on the fretboard and 88s throughout. The theme continues in “You Sure Left in a Hurry,” which bookends seamlessly once the opener ends.

“I Don’t Need No Technology” brightens the mood. It’s a long song that swings from the jump as it urges a lady to turn of the TV, shut off the radio and avoid the cellphone and computer because they’re about to perform a late show all their own. Unfortunately, though, the good times don’t last because – as described in “She Fooled Me” – the lady proved to be a master of “steppin’ out and tellin’ lies.”

A cover of John Lee Sanders’ sprightly “One Crazy Night” follows before the tempo slows slightly as Rene claims he’s a winner at everything he attempts in “I’m on a Roll,” which gives the horns space to shine – something they do throughout. Homuta flies over the keyboard to kick off “Who Do You Think You Are,” a blazing complaint about someone overwhelmed by his own self-importance, before a little New Orleans-flavored funk kicks in with “My Endless Blue Mood.”

“Won’t You Please Come Back to Me” pleads a lover to return and flows in a tremendous reinterpretation of Albert King’s “As the Years Go Passing By” before Trossman delivers “Down at Rosa’s,” a tribute to the landmark club that’s been delivering the blues on Chicago’s Northwest Side for the past 40 years. Two more tunes – the aptly titled original, “This World Is in a Mess,” and the warhorse “Sweet Home Chicago” – bring the disc to a close.

Available through Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Deezer, YouTube, Amazon and Tidal, this one’s strongly recommended – and guaranteed to brighten your mood! Strong musicianship and quality tunes throughout.

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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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 6 

imageChris English – At Groove City

Self-Release – 2021

www.chrisenglishblues.com

10 tracks; 46 minutes

This is Chris English’s fifth CD. The previous one that this reviewer heard was a band effort, Howlin’ So Long, back in 2017 but here Chris plays in an acoustic duo with his son Grayson on bass and backing vocals as Chris handles vocals, guitar, harp and foot stomps. There are three covers and seven of Chris’ well written and often amusing originals. The duo played live over several nights at Groove City studios in Cambridge, Maryland, opening the doors to an audience on the final night, most of these tracks coming from that final session.

The set opens with Charley Patton’s “Moon Going Down” which has a great groove as Chris sings in a very rough-hewn style and plays some good slide. “Cape Charles Distillery Blues” uses the tune from “St James Infirmary” to recount a tale of over-indulgence after an initial order of “one bourbon, one rye, one beer” cannot be completed as the distillery does not serve beer; never mind, Chris contents himself with the spirits and ends up totally drunk! The audience is clearly enjoying the story and the fun way that it is presented.

“My Little Baby” is a lively tune and “Send You To The Moon” a comic song about literally packaging up someone to dispatch them far away: “I’d like to send you to the moon, put a stamp on your ass and go ‘Boom’”. A longer length tune gives space for Chris to display his finger-picking skills before he sings tenderly of “Irene” and “Everybody In The Pool” is an emotional tribute to Chris’ late father who used to shout that phrase to his grandchildren, a fine song with delicate slide work. Humour returns on “Going Down To The Tater Shed”, an off the grid place where people gather to have a good time, if you can find it “way down in the woods”.

Little Walter’s “Tell Me Mama” is an appropriate song for Chris to play harp and he then does a second Patton song, “Banty Rooster Blues” (with plenty of slide work) before closing the set with “Cigarette Blues” in which Chris equates his relationship with smoking: “You’re a bad, nasty habit, I can’t seem to put you down, but one of these days, darling, I’m going to grind you on the ground”. This is another fun song into which Chris cleverly weaves lots of smoking references and is greeted with generous applause at the end.

Fans of acoustic blues with a comic twist will definitely enjoy this release.

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 

imagePat Fulgoni – Dark Side of the Blues

Chocolate Fireguard Music

www.chocolatefireguard.co.uk

10 songs – 50 minutes

A world traveler whose work has appeared in the scores of TV’s Weeds, John from Cincinnati, major movies and video games for Xbox and iOS, Fulgoni is best known as the front man for the rock/funk band Kava Kava and work with dozens of artists in everything from jazz, psychedelia and drum-and-bass to dub, Fulgoni has been called “the Jack Bruce of the e-generation” by the prestigious The Wire magazine in his homeland, and Billboard once described him as being able “to sing a pearl from its oyster.”

Possessing a strong love for the blues, too, he was rehearsing his new band, Blues Experience, in the Czech Republic in 2020 prior to launching a 2021 festival tour that already included two of the biggest events on the Continent — the Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival in Colne and the Czech Blues Alive in Sumperk. They’d already performed live on national TV and been featured in a Czech Grammy-winning documentary about the local blues scene when they recorded this album live at Faust Studios in Prague.

Fulgoni handles vocals throughout in a lineup that includes Jan and Lukas Martinek on guitars, Jan Korinek and Boris Secky on keys, Brian Reagan, Mick Reed and Vladimir “Break” Grunt on drums and Jason Riley, Leos Drabek and Vladimir Vytiska on bass. Additional instrumentation comes from Jim Correy (baritone sax), Richard Martin (trombone), Ondrej Konrad (harp) and executive producer Robert Mader who contributes bass and guitar on five of the ten tracks.

An uptempo guitar run opens an interesting take on Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me” before Pat’s warm, mid-range voice joins the action. The mid-tune guitar break from the Martinek brothers are red-hot without bleeding into a hard-rock edge. The action mellows and the sax comes to the fore as Fulgoni croons “Hard Times,” an often overlooked classic first released by Ray Charles in 1960.

Fulgoni dips into Bill Withers’ songbook for “Who Is He and What Is He to You” next, slowing down the arrangement considerably and adding a subdued, but funky rhythm pattern to the mix to make it his own with Silvia Josifoska lending her sultry voice as a response to Pat’s lead. It’s almost impossible to cover a B.B. King song and make it work, but this band succeeds with their take of “Thrill Is Gone.” It’s beefy, haunting and slightly behind the beat.

One of the best cuts in the set is “Think Twice Before You Go.” It maintains the feel of the John Lee Hooker original, but comes across as new thanks to a stripped down, uptempo delivery and out-front vocals delivered in a manner popular in the ‘50s. While the band’s take on Larry Davis’ “Texas Flood” is pretty close to the Stevie Ray Vaughan version, their interpretation of B.B.’s “Rock Me Baby” cuts new ground in a manner similar to his other tune above.

A nine-minute send-up of Led Zeppelin’s “How Many More Times” starts with a whisper before kicking into gear and flows into an interesting, bluesy take on Thin Lizzy’s “Still in Love with You” before a solid reworking of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” brings the disc to a close.

Initially released as a digital-only download, but now available as a CD through Amazon and other outlets, this disc hit the No. 2 spot on UK blues charts despite consisting of impeccably reworked covers – and for good reason. Rock solid from front to back.

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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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6 

imageDavis Hall & The Green Lanterns

Self-Release – 2021

www.greenlanterns.ca

www.jamesacasson.ca/jhc/casson.htm

10 tracks; 42.03 minutes

This release is a project by Jim Casson, a veteran drummer who has played with a huge number of people (his website lists 445!) but who is probably best known as the drummer for Canadian institution Downchild. The project started with the idea of creating music from an initial drum improvisation to which others could add their parts – arguably an ideal way to create music during the recent pandemic lockdowns. Jim played all the drum parts and also provided samples, field recordings and synth bass; the other core musicians involved are Jay Burr on tuba and trombone, Wayne Deadder on guitar and Mike Branton on slide guitar. Russ Boswell plays bass on two cuts, harp players Steve Marriner and Al Lerman play on one track each and Bernie LaBarge and Brent Barkman add guitar and organ respectively to one track.

This is an all-instrumental album and, as creator of the core rhythms, Jim is credited as composer on all ten tunes, three on his own, with additional credits for Burr, Deadder, Barkman, Boswell, Branton, LaBarge and Lerman.

The title of the album comes from Jim’s childhood in the Niagara region: Davis Hall was the name of the community center where he attended nursery school and the Green Lantern was a soda shop! All the song titles involve names of places in the Niagara region, plus snippets of radio broadcasts, apparently taken from a 1963 broadcast on the local radio station, are sown through the album, so this is an exercise in nostalgia, at least for Jim.

The PR sheet that accompanied this album claims that this is what might happen “if Dark Orchard (Jim’s experimental music project) got together with the blues in New Orleans and watched Twin Peaks with Daniel Lanois”. Unfortunately, it makes for a pretty dull listening experience. Certainly there is a generally funky feel to almost every track but on several nothing much happens beyond the main rhythm and the radio extracts seem to serve little purpose.

Things get more interesting, to these ears, on “The Right Road To Boyle” which has a real Little Feat feel as the slide and guitar play off each other over busy percussion and a melodic bottom end played by the tuba. The double-tracking of Jay’s trombone over his tuba, plus the use of dobro, gives a greater depth of sound to “Formerly Diffin’s Corner” and Steve Marriner’s lonesome harp fits well with “Finding Tintern” which plods along at a funereal pace. “The Dream Of Chantler” makes a strange, minimalist end to the album with the sound of crickets in the background throughout.

It is hard to see what the audience might be for this disc which is certainly not one to which this reviewer will return.

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


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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6 

imageZydeco Playboys – Just Do It

Self-Release – 2021

www.zydeco-playboys.com

13 tracks; 54.21 minutes

When you see Zydeco you think of Louisiana, but this one comes from “downsouth Germany”, courtesy of a long-standing five piece led by “Mr Zydeco” Oliver E Kraus (lead vocals, accordion and keys) who is joined by Richard Schwarz (drums, rubboard), Volker Klenner (guitar), Thomas Küsters (bass) and Christoph Dreyfuss-Wilde (rubboard, percussion); everyone helps out on backing vocals and Volker sings lead on the only cover as well as contributing one instrumental tune. The remaining material is all written by Oliver and includes some straight-up Zydeco tunes as well as other catchy material aimed at the feet. Oliver and Richard are original members of the band and the current line-up has been going since 2005; guitarist Volker studied with Ronnie Earl and made an album some years ago with Ronnie’s Broadcasters, including Bruce Katz.

We start with “Mr Zydeco’s Dance”, the accordion supported by handclaps, whistling and backing vocals, the rest of the band entering on the second verse as Oliver prescribes zydeco as the cure for what ails you! The accordion again leads on the intensely catchy “Whatta Kind Of Money Do You Like” in which Oliver reckons that he can tell what sort of person you are by the money in your purse, be it earned, lent or stolen. The pace drops for “Wanderlust”, a song about the urge to travel away from home with Volker playing some country-infused licks before the cajun-flavored “C’est Tout Y A!” which is almost an instrumental with a few minimal lyrics in French; the insistent percussion and accordion lead to a guitar-led section in which Volker sounds uncannily like Dickey Betts of the Allmans jamming with a Cajun band. Volker then takes over lead vocals for a good version of Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell” with plenty of accordion fills. Of course, the song namechecks New Orleans and Chuck gave the song the sub-title “C’est La Vie”, so it’s a perfect fit for a zydeco band!

Having dabbled in French, Oliver then tries his hand at some Spanish in “Lleno De Vida” which has something of an island feel, especially with lyrics like “lying in a hammock – man – with a cold drink” but we are soon back in zydeco territory with the tale of a “Backyard Lady” who sounds like a real handful: “she’s a hot-blooded devil, and she burning me out”. We finally make it to Germany with the instrumental “Choucroute A La Allemande” before “Gros Coup” which mixes French and English and sounds pretty authentic with lyrical references to the bayou, as well as another lyrical solo from Volker. Plenty of bayou sound effects open “The Gator Groove” which buzzes along for over five minutes, making it the longest cut on the album.

The title track is a short and sweet invitation to ‘do your own thing’, played to a frenetic rhythm section overlaid with rocking guitar and accordion. There is time for one more foray into Spanish with “Una Cerveza Y Dos Copas De Vino” which this time blends polka rhythms with zydeco in celebration of the demon drink. Volker’s closing instrumental tune “Last Island” is something of a departure, a stately guitar instrumental though the accordion takes the central solo.

Confession: zydeco is not my favorite type of music but this is a thoroughly enjoyable album.

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


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