Issue 16-4 January 27, 2022

Cover photo © 2022 Joseph A. Rosen

 In This Issue 

Marty Gunther has our feature interview with Shemekia Copeland. We have seven Blues reviews for you this week including a review of Blues guitar lessons from MusicGurus, two new albums from Big Creek Slim plus new music from BigLlou Johnson, Gary Moore, Uncle Albert and BC Hudson. Scroll down and check it out!



 Featured Interview – Shemekia Copeland 

imageThe past two years have been fraught with difficulties for musicians at every level. No matter whether you’re a weekend warrior or one of the biggest names in the business, life’s been tough for everyone. And that includes Shemekia Copeland, the reigning Blues Music Association entertainer of the year, too.

Despite her upbeat attitude, seemingly Teflon-coated success and the fact that she’s been brightening spirits around the globe through sporadic live appearances and her five-day-a-week show on SiriusXM’s B.B. King’s Bluesville, she’s struggled right alongside everyone else.

She’s been forced to deal with a major medical issue and COVID-19, too. The trouper that she is, though, as Blues Blast learned in a recent interview, she’s bounced back stronger than ever and has big plans afoot to continue delivering more of the seriously powerful, socially relevant music that’s become her trademark in recent years.

Now based out of California after a long run in Chicago, she was actually born in New York City and raised in Harlem, where her father, Blues Hall of Famer Johnny “Clyde” Copeland, was based, and social issues always played a major role in her life even back then.

An exceptionally talented guitarist who enjoyed success late in life with Showdown!, the Grammy-winning 1985 Alligator release on which he squared off with Albert Collins and Robert Cray, Johnny was born in Haynesville, La., and recorded a succession of 45s for Duke and a series of minor labels out of Houston from the ‘50s to the mid-‘70s, when he uprooted his family for the Big Apple in an ill-fated attempt to cash in on the disco craze.

But he eventually became a darling of the blues world after signing with Rounder Records, where he earned three contemporary artist of the year trophies at the recently launched W.C. Handy Awards in addition to album-of-the-year honors for Copeland Special, his first release on the imprint in 1981.

Shemekia was just ten years old when she joined her dad on stage for the first time in 1989 at a later incarnation of the Cotton Club in Harlem. And she started assuming an increasingly important role in his performances in her mid-teens because of Johnny’s declining health. Born with a congenital heart defect, he eventually underwent a heart transplant in the winter of 1996 and succumbed to complications from the surgery at age 60 about six months later.

By the time she was 18, Shemekia was a star, too. Following in her father’s footsteps, she signed with Alligator, released Turn the Heat Up two years later and immediately started drawing praise from the New York Times, CNN and other news outlets before going on to earn her first W.C. Handy nomination for best new artist debut, too.

And it didn’t hurt that Koko Taylor took her under her wing, too.

“She was enormously important to me,” Copeland says today. “She always gave me lots of practical advice. She called me to check on me. Koko would talk to me for three minutes. She’d go: ‘How you doin’, baby? Everything all right?’ I’d go: ‘Everything’s fine.’ Then she’d go: ‘Lemme speak to your mama’ (laughs) because she knew she was gonna get the real story.

“She once told me: ‘I love you and appreciate that you’re not trying to be like me — that you’re keeping the tradition going by doing your own thing.’”

Both B.B. King and Buddy Guy helped her along the way, too, stressing the importance of being patient in her career because they knew for certain that her time would come. And Dr. John told her: “Just be yourself and make music you like. Everything will work out.”

And, boy, did it ever!

Her follow-up, Wicked, included a duet with another childhood hero, Ruth Brown, and Dr. John and Steve Cropper produced her next two, Talking to Strangers and The Soul Truth.

imageCopeland’s place as a major player in the blues hierarchy was already established in her early 30s – so much so, in fact, that Cookie Taylor, Koko’s daughter, presented her with her mom’s crown at the 2011 Chicago Blues Festival and anointed her as the true Queen of the Blues, a title that others had pinned on Koko for decades.

As great an honor as that was, however, Shemekia has never used it to her own advantage.

“Cookie and Koko, they both loved me,” she says fondly. “And I believe the reason that they loved me was that I was not trying to be like Koko. I was smart enough to know that I couldn’t (chuckles).

“I can’t be no Koko Taylor. I can’t be no Etta James. I can’t be Odetta or Ruth Brown. All I can be is the best version of Shemekia that I can be. That’s the only thing I’m capable of. I was smart enough to get and understand that.

“People got in such an uproar about it, but I’ve never called myself the queen of anything. If people ask me, I always tell ‘em: ‘Koko is and always will be the Queen of the Blues ‘cause she was my queen!’ She never called herself that either, and she knew I wouldn’t run around with a crown on my head and I’d never ever run around sayin’: ‘Oh, I’m the Queen of the Blues.’ And I haven’t!”

Despite her reluctance to accept the title, Shemekia’s track record proves without a doubt how deserving she truly is. The most honored female artist of her generation, her trophy case – if she has one – includes 12 Blues Music Awards after earning about 40 nominations in the past 24 years – something that’s even more amazing when you consider that she’s only in her early 40s. And that doesn’t include her four Grammy nominations!

One thing that separates Copeland from the majority of other vocalists these days is her increasing desire to deliver songs that deal with the human condition and – more recently — that shed new light on important events in black history that have been previously shrouded by time and prejudice.

There was a time in the blues – when the acoustic country musicians emerged from the cottonfields to play on the biggest stages in the world in the ’50s and ‘60s – that protest songs and others dealing with the struggles of African-Americans appeared frequently in their playlists. That came to a halt as the older artists died off and changes created by the Civil Rights movement and the Summer of Love took hold and changed society as we know it.

You don’t have to be a blues historian to recognize that the old themes surface in new material occasionally today, but it’s also true that the great majority of hits across the past 50 years have dealt with the ups and downs of romance — Johnnie Taylor’s “Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone” for example, praised good barbeque and great nights out or – like Z.Z. Hill’s “Down Home Blues” and Little Milton’s “Hey, Hey, the Blues Is Alright” – simply celebrate the blues itself.

As America’s sociopolitical climate has shifted in the past decade, however, the younger generation of blues artists, Shemekia included, have been releasing a growing number of songs drawn from the struggles of life in the modern world.

For Copeland, it crystalized full force in America’s Child, an album that pays tribute to the nation by describing some of the blessings it offers but also bares the blemishes that tarnishes its image, too. Produced by Will Kimbrough and featuring appearances from John Prine, Cropper, Rhiannon Giddens and Emmylou Harris, among others, it was the first album Shemekia released following the birth of her son, Johnny, and serves up a smorgasbord of the problems she knows he’ll be facing as he grows up.

Her latest release, Uncivil War, blends blues, R&B and Americana as it explores 21st century life and demands change for all of the problems it presents. With guest appearances from Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Webb Wilder, Duane Eddy, Jason Isbell and others, it addresses gun violence (“Apple Pie and a .45”), civil rights (“Walk Until I Ride”), lost friends, romance and more.

She delivers a little history lesson, too, with the cut “Clotilda’s on Fire,” which puts the spotlight on the true story of the last slave ship to America for the first time in 160 years. The ship carried as many as 160 tortured souls and was set ablaze in Mobile Bay in 1859 – five decades after the slave trade was outlawed — to destroy the evidence of its passage. It remained a forgotten relic until 2019, when it was rediscovered in the mud off the Alabama coast.

imageShemekia insists that the change in the subject matter of her songs evolved naturally. “When I started in this business, I was just a child,” she says, “and the things that affect me as an adult didn’t affect me when I was a kid. I didn’t even think about it. It wasn’t even on my radar.

“I was born and raised in Harlem, and we had a lot of social issues goin’ on at the time. It was pretty dangerous to be there…it was not the safest of areas. But I want to say that I had a not-so-normal upbringing because I had both my parents and an household that was different than all the other kids’ who came from broken homes…lots of drug issues and stuff.

“I had a very solid foundation even though where I grew up wasn’t that great. We dealt with social issues all the time. That’s why my father recorded the song ‘Ghetto Child’…woo!…in the 1950s or early ‘60s. He recorded that about kids growin’ up in his neighborhood (in Houston), and here I am growin’ up in the ‘80s and ‘90s in New York and I’m dealin’ with the same stuff.

“I fear that my little boy, if he grows up to be a singer, he’ll be singin’ the same songs. It’s really sad to me.”

Becoming a mother, Shemekia says, had a profound affect on her choice of the material she writes and sings, noting: “As you live…as you get older…things start to get to you.

“Goin’ wa-a-ay back, when I did Never Going Back (her 2009 on Telarc, where she released two albums before returning to the Alligator fold), I did a song called ‘Broken World.’ I had gone to Iraq and Kuwait to entertain the troops. I was still in my late 20s, and all of those kids there were younger than I was. I was sayin’ to myself: ‘Gosh, you can’t buy yourself a drink, but you can come over here and risk your life!

“We were right in the middle of a war. It was very crazy – and very eye-opening for me! I think it started there for me wanting to do songs about social issues.

“After that, I started doing songs about domestic violence, date rape, religious hypocrites…things like that. And after I had my little boy in 2017 and did America’s Child, I didn’t want to complaint about the world as much as I wanted to fix it in a small way. I wanted to try to put out material that would make people think…like ‘we ain’t got time for hate…why are we doing this shit?’

“And then it continued with Uncivil War because I thought nobody heard me (chuckles).”

And listen they did! Like its predecessor, it’s currently a Grammy finalist for contemporary blues album of the year.

“That really makes me happy,” Shemekia says, “because it proves to me that I’m not the only person that wants unity, that wants us to come together.

“I feel like if we all turned off our televisions and stopped listening to people telling us what we ‘should’ be thinking or feeling about other people and started going out there and talking and meeting people and not being all ‘judgey’ of people, we’d actually learn about one another and realize we are all the same!

“It’s us against them. It’s us against the politicians. And when I say ‘us,’ I mean all of America.

“They are masterful of getting us to fight against each other over silly stuff while they’re in the background doin’ whatever it is that they wanna do! If we stopped allowing them to get in our heads and pit us against each other, man, we would be in such a much better place as a people. We all need to stick together…all shades, all kinds, all of us.”

Shemekia’s been laying the groundwork to continue her message as coronavirus has raged around her. And her voice has reached multitudes through her work as a deejay on SiriusXM’s B.B. King’s Bluesville, a job she took on a year prior to the world spinning to a halt. It’s something that’s brought her joy – especially, she says, “because I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I didn’t have that to lean on.

image“I’ve had a rough couple of years,” Shemekia admits – and it goes far beyond her inability to tour and perform before her legions of adoring fans.

As difficult as the world was for her as a touring musician, she’s faced her own medical challenges in the past year. As she was getting set to launch a summer tour, doctors diagnosed her with a rare form of kidney cancer that often affects people in their 40s and 50s and creates tumors that affix themselves to the lining of the tubes that filter impurities from the blood.

“For me, it was a very strange thing because there are no kidney issues in my family. I ended up with a tumor. But the good news is that it’s pretty curable. They removed the tumor along with 20 per cent of my kidney, and now I’m good. And fortunately, I didn’t have to have radiation or chemo or anything like that.

“I’m feeling pretty grateful for all that.”

Shemekia bounced back quickly and was able to tour again during the fall, but that was fraught with issues, too. She was already in Florida – fully vaccinated and boosted — and getting set to sail on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise last November — literally getting ready to board the ship — when she was diagnosed with COVID herself.

“You don’t wanna be that person when they call your name,” she jokes now. “That’s what’s so scary about this stuff. I just thought I had some allergy issues. I certainly didn’t think it was that…but it was.”

Fortunately, her symptoms were mild. She lost her sense of taste and smell for a couple of weeks before returning to her old self.

Now, it’s on to bigger and better things for Copeland as she tries “to put the ‘United’ back into the United States” once again through song. “I miss the days when we treated each other better and could come together despite our differences,” she insists. “That’s what really makes America beautiful.”

If you like the messages she delivered in America’s Child and Uncivil War, you’ll really love what Shemekia’s planning next. “It’s gonna be a trilogy,” she says, “and I’m so-o-o excited!

“Nobody else ever has to worry about me bein’ in competition with them because I’m in constant competition with myself to do better than I did before. I’ve already done a lot of it, and I’m working with some artists that I love and respect so much. Cedric Burnside is one of ‘em.

And if you think that Shemekia’s going overboard to stress her message, she’s got a few words for you.

“I think that some people who listen to my records say: ‘You’re becoming very political,’ and I completely disagree with that,” she insists. “They almost had me convinced, but I don’t believe that at all. I’m just talking about what’s happening in this country, and some people – not all – just don’t want to hear that.

“A lot of folks are professionals about wanting to sweep everything under the rug. It’s like guns and stuff like that. I hate the words ‘gun control.’ It’s a media thing. When you say that instead of using different language, it immediately puts all of us in an armed war.

“I own one myself. I’ve got my conceal-and-carry. I believe in gun ownership. My husband was brought up to hunt and all that stuff, and I’m hopin’ he’ll teach our son, too. It’s important. It’s part of life. But we can all agree that we don’t want crazy people to have ‘em.

“But instead of goin’ on television and sayin’ that, they talk about ‘there’s gotta be gun control’ – and immediately, the whole world is in an uproar because they’re trying to take away somethin’ – which, by the way, has never happened. People just wanna fight.”

The first disc in the project should reach listeners’ ears by the fall. Meanwhile, Shemekia’s slated for a series of concerts in Texas at the end of January, then a week in the Northeast before sailing on Joe Bonamassa’s Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea cruise in February. Other plans include appearances at the Notodden Blues Festival in Norway and the Big Blues Bender in Las Vegas.

“Maybe by the end of January we’ll have more plans,” she says. “Right now, though, it’s better that we all live in the present and hope for the best! But one thing’s for certain: I’m so grateful for all the people who support us. We couldn’t do any of this without them!”

Check out Shemekia’s music and where she’ll be playing next by visiting her website:

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 7

imageBigLlou Johnson – Bigman

GoldenVoice Audio Recordings

10 songs – 40 minutes

BigLlou Johnson is one of the busiest men in show business. Not only is the longtime host of SiriusXM’s B.B. King’s Bluesville, but he’s also a first-call emcee for blues festivals on land and sea and an award-winning commercial voiceover talent with dozens of Hollywood film and TV credits, too. He’s in such demand that it’s taken him seemingly forever to release a follow-up after catching lightning in a bottle in 2013 and winning the Blues Music Award for new artist of the year for his debut CD, They Call Me Big Llou.

But it’s definitely been worth the wait.

A native Chicagoan who grew up on the West Side, but is now based out of greater Los Angeles, BigLlou has been a performer since playing the sax in cover bands and doing high school news reports for WVON radio as a teen. A former talent agent, he went from booking extras for TV and movies to appearing in the Barbershop films and doing commercials for White Castle, McDonald’s, Phillips 66 and more.

But despite that aspect of his life, he’s always been a singer, too, touring internationally and recording as a member of Phava, a four-piece gospel group, performing as a member of the Oak Park (Ill.) Concert Chorale and recording albums with Polish vocalist Dorota Jarema and Chicago folk icon Andrew Calhoun. He became a blues vocalist at the insistence of Bill Wax, the legendary program director who hired him for his SiriusXM gig.

Influenced by Howlin’ Wolf, Barry White, Willie Dixon and Paul Robeson, Johnson was primarily a blues shouter on his debut, delivering a set of seven covers and one original produced by harp player Russ Green with backing from an uncredited collection of top Windy City musicians. On this one, he proves himself to be a crooner who compares well to Barry White, Isaac Hayes and other basso profundo giants.

Recorded at Jookbox Studio in Memphis and GoldenVoice Audio in Los Angeles in partnership with Keith Stewart, BigLlou penned four of the tracks with others written by Keith, Terry Abrahamson and Derrick Procell, Doug MacLeod and Ellis Hall, and he’s backed by a moveable feast of top talent. The roster includes Joe Louis Walker, Gino Matteo, Isaiah Sharkey, Terrence “Sweet T” Grayson, Hall and Curt Morrison on guitars with Victor Wainwright, Tim Gant, Hall, Chris Stephenson, Josh Lava, James Pastman and Michael Raiford on keys.

Also in the lineup are Anne Harris (strings), Mark Earley, Stewart, Doug Woolverton and Bill Overton (horns), Green and Morrison (harp), Anthony Dopsie (accordion), Felton Crews, Paul Martin and Ricky Nelson (bass) and Nelson, Raiford, Jim Widlowski and Kaylan Pathak (percussion). Dwight Dukes, Ellis Hall, Amanda Joyce, Monique Whittington and Monico Whittington provide backing vocals.

A blast from the horns and a brief guitar run kick off the blazing “Lightnin’ Strike,” a smooth declaration from BigLlou that he’s coming to your town — and “you better be prepared because storm clouds say you’d better beware” because “a righteous woman ain’t got a prayer.” The blues kick in South Side-style for “Bigman,” which follows. A driving shuffle, it’s a tune that updates the tradition of songs that boast about sexual prowess through allegory and thinly veiled innuendo.

The tempo slows to a steady shuffle and heats up with harp solo to open “Chill on Cold,” a cautionary tale that describes a woman who goes after her male prey “like a gator hunts the swamp and makes love to fools until she gets what she wants,” before BigLlou goes on the prowl himself with “Let’s Misbehave,” an unhurried ballad in which Johnson turns on the charm and politely asks a lady who’s in a relationship for a “horizonal dance” because another chance might not come along.

“Shucky Ducky (Quack Quack)” is up next. A lush, medium-paced shuffle, it describes a beauty who always sits in the front row when BigLlou performs, but never seems able to say the trademark phrase of the title correctly despite trying desperately to do so with a look of delight. It flows into “Sunshine on You Face,” a love song that will surprise you because it’s acoustic and propelled by stellar runs from Harris on violin.

“Stuff to Do,” a call-and-response pleaser, is built atop a rapid-fire bottom before the ballad “I Got the Fever” serves up love for the blues as it describes a romance that’s just gone bad. “Never Get Over Me,” the most interesting tune in the set, opens as a ballad with layered strings, picks up speed and professes that the singer’s such a great lover that he’ll be on his lady’s mind long after they’ve parted before the catchy, gospel-tinged “Beezthatwaysometimes” brings the disc to a pleasing close.

One listen to Bigman and you’ll have even greater appreciation for BigLlou Johnson than you’ve had before. It’s that good! Strongly recommended for fans of classic soul-blues.

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 7 

imageGary Moore – Living With The Blues

Provogue Records

8 tracks

Gary Moore’s career as a guitar player dates all the way back the 1960’s when he first came on the scene. His worked with several noted British rock bands and had a storied solo career that began in 1979. His last released album was in 2010 and he passed away in his sleep in 2011 while on holiday in Spain, leaving us far too soon. This release is a compilation of 8 well known blues songs that are presented as a piece of his legacy as an English blues rocker with a fiery guitar.

Opening the album is the classic “I’m Tore Down.” Moore blues through that in style, blazing on guitar and doing what he does best. He follows with a slick cover of “Steppin’ Out,” a stinging instrumental that rocks. “In My Dreams” has that ethereal feel to it as Moore plays and sings with deep feeling and emotion. The title track is next, gritty and dirty slow blues. He shows he doesn’t have to rock out while playing the blues. In “Looking At Your Picture,” Moore gives us a subdued and slick cover of the cut. “Love Can Make A Fool Of You” follows, with a big intro to grab the listeners attention. Slow and sublime, Moore nails another one. The pace picks up with the Elmore James cu that the Allman Brothers made even more famous “Done Somebody Wrong.” Moore gives it his own branding with his own guitar style and nice vocals. The album concludes with “Living With The Blues” where Moore again does some pretty and cool slow blues. He’s restrained and nearly magical in his approach. The final solo work leaves us in a peaceful state; well done!

This is a great album. It’s great to revisit Gary Moore’s work and this set of well known and revered songs are beautifully played and sung. It’s a super piece of history. My only complaint is that it’s just 8 songs; I guess I always want more. The CD packaging it was sold with was a boxed set, but it only had the lone CD with these tracks and the rest of the box was filled with a pair of coasters, 4 guitar picks, a postcard and a decal. If you are a Moore fan, these tunes will surely tickle your fancy. If you are new to Gary Moore and want to hear what he can do with the blues, then this would be a nice introduction for you!

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.


 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 7 

IMAGEMusic Gurus – Learn Authentic Blues Guitar with Scott McKeon

31 Lessons

Learning guitar runs on a spectrum. The instrument is deviously versatile allowing the amateur novice to be able to pick it up quickly and beguiling master musical theorists their whole lives. Most aspiring guitarists start with the Blues since in technical fretboard logistics the music is relatively straightforward. The Blues, however, is all about feel, attitude and execution. This is at the heart of the lessons taught by master six string wrangler Scott McKeon in the new Music Gurus Learn Authentic Blues Guitar lesson set. Over the course of 31 mini lessons, McKeon breaks down the magical essence of real deal Blues and helps unlock some of the secrets of architects such as Lighnin’ Hopkins, Jimmy Reed, B.B. King, Albert King and both Vaughan brothers.

Blues guitar started historically acoustically and McKeon starts there as well. Focusing on Texas Blues citing Lightnin’ Hopkins and Jimmy Reed as touchstones, McKeon lays the foundation for the classic Blues Shuffle in E. Highlighting the difference between Reed’s groovier style and Hopkins’ “meatier” more raw style, the endless subtle variation in execution is really well described. Most guitarists who would be checking this out would know how to do a shuffle, but McKeon’s attention to nuanced picking details, passing riffs and alternate turn arounds are great additions to one’s repertoire.

Just like the Blues jumped to electric guitar, McKeon jumps the E Shuffle onto his ancient looking Fender Strat. Showing how the shuffle can be filled out and made deeper and punchier, McKeon adds some classic Stevie Ray turn-arounds to the mix. He also demonstrates how SRV used to “scrape” the strings, creating depth in the rhythm for the Double Trouble trio setting. Within this section is the first of a few interactive sessions in which McKeon plays while both sheet music and tablature scroll underneath.

Keeping things rhythmic the next batch of lessons deal with Funk and Soul. At first this seems like a bit of a digression, but McKeon shows how the repetition of a phrase, Funk or shuffle, creates a meditative emotive experience. McKeon also does a nifty multi track sequence in split screen in which he layers parts on top of each other creating some stank.

Everyone wants to be a guitar god and learn how to solo impressively. McKeon obliges by showing in detail a number of different techniques. Extensively working within B.B. King’s tight 4 to 5 note style, McKeon plays along with a backing track and then breaks down the riffs again highlighting that the technical simplicity is belied by the complexity of the execution. Finger picking has become quite popular lately amongst Rock and Pop music, but it has always been a staple of the Blues. McKeon shows us how to do some nifty hybrid picking and how to use our fingers for maximum emotive effect citing Albert Collins and Jimmie Vaughan. There is a cool final session in the section in which McKeon puts all the pieces together into a complex multi-styled solo.

McKeon is a go to session guitarist and has his own solo career. Using a Blues tune he wrote with his band “Take Me Back,” he shows us how to build emotional gravity through layering of parts and thoughtful placement of highly charged phrases. It’s cool to engage with McKeon’s own composition and work along with the recording. This section allows the student to be able to think about what has been presented in a slightly more contemporary Blues setting. It is also fun to hear McKeon reminisce on how the tune was created out of a Jam and tracked live.

The course closes out with a series of one off riff lessons. These are especially cool for learners who have struggled to get that stupid fast SRV riff too frenzied to pick apart or that monumental Albert King phrase – what is he doing with that long bend?? There are also a couple really cool Buddy Guy and Jimmie Vaughan riffs that are not as widely known but add character and complexity to the trick bag. These riffs work nicely in all of the forms and progressions taught previously. McKeon breaks the riffs down and all of them are notated and tabbed allowing for the kind of compulsive repetition needed to get them to flow freely.

The format of these lessons is excellent and very user friendly. The “advanced player” that scrolls sheet music and tabs is very cool and functional. It allows the learner to slow down the lesson and read the music. The sessions are short which is good because you can easily pick out which pieces you want to work on. Additionally McKeon is pretty hip. It’s enjoyable spending some time with him. It’s kind of like being a kid again and hanging with that older teenager who knows about guitar and is willing to take time to teach you. McKeon goes slowly and is very clear. This is an intermediate level course and certainly the sessions will be very stimulating for intermediate players. Some of the beginning stuff around the E shuffle might be review, but stick with it, it pays off.

Learn Authentic Blues Guitar delivers the goods. Scott McKeon clearly knows what he’s talking about and has uncovered some of the six string secrets of the Blues. It’s entertaining, moves deliberately and is packed with many gems. This is a nice refresher and enhancer for the amateur Blues guitarist and a great next step for guitarists in the making.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 4 & 5 of 7 

IMAGEBig Creek Slim – Migration Blues & Twenty-Twenty Blues

Straight Shooter

14 tracks and 13 tracks respectively

I discovered Big Creek Slim during the 2021 Blues Blast Music Awards. He submitted these two albums, Migration Blues and Twenty-Twenty Blues, which both impressed me as fantastic acoustic country blues. Both albums were released in 2021 with a total of 27 new songs.

Mark Rune aka Big Creek Slim was born in Ikast, a very small town in the middle of Denmark. He states on his website, “It ain’t that much about American or black music as it’s about the blues. The blues should be a universal feeling and a world patrimony. Why I play them in this style – old, black, American – has something to do with the way I am. I always like to find the roots of things. I also search for the roots of Scandinavian culture. I played a lot of Irish traditional music, and the roots of Brazilian samba fascinate me.”

The primal, simple, essence of the roots of the blues is what moves him to be a bluesman. “The thing that inspired me so much about old blues and folk music is the strong sound: Less is more if you play it with attitude. The sound of the Delta blues carries me to a more primitive state of mind.” He certainly has taken that to heart.

Migration Blues was done in 2019 when he was struggling with residency issues with the Danish government. The album was released in April of 2020 . The collection of songs give us pictures of his struggle against bureaucracy and becoming a second class citizen. He opens with “Hard Times,” a song that easily could be attributed to Robert Johnson if it was not just over five minutes long (remember that RJ and early artists perfected the 3 minute song that fit on one side of a 78 RPM record; who knows how long they stretched songs to in their live performances). The finger picking and added rhythmic strumming are exceptional here and throughout. The song is about struggling to exist, working two or three jobs and trying to make ends meet as he sings as if he was from the Mississippi Delta a hundred years ago.

IMAGENext is “Demolition Man,” a song with sexual double entendres. If his mama gives him food, “He’ll tear this whole thing down.” Good stuff. “Black Tammie” follows, a song about his big and juicy woman who he yearns for. He sings of his woes in “Working My Way Back Home,” “Landlord Blues,” and “Hot Boiling Water Blues.” “Hyperborian Blues” takes his far-northern latitude roots and how he gets the blues in the long days of the long winter in darkness, cold, rain and snow, mixing American roots music and Scandinavian themes to cool effect.

“Three Kind Words” starts as a more rollicking and happy tune about his women telling him she loves him. He tells us how he was transformed but then things get a bit dark and he tells us a working man, “Ain’t nothing but a woman’s slave.” Apparently the three kind words were not heartfelt. He yearns to go up to Limeburg in a blues of that town’s name. I looked on a map and did a Google search, and found no such place except Limburg, Netherlands. “Headless Chicken Blues” gives us Big Creek telling us he’s running around like one with no where to go since his woman dropped him. In “Deportation Blues” we find out it’s not just America that has deportation on it’s mind to conveniently get rid of people. “Going To Bristol” is an uplifting, traveling song about going to visit his woman and the welcoming people of the town. He concludes with another uplifting cut, “Things Are Getting Better,” ending the album with a couple of upbeat cuts. The final one is instrumental and gives the listener a feeling of freshness and hope.

Then on the Twenty-Twenty Blues Album he was stuck in Brazil, and he said he was, “In quarantine in one of the world’s epicenters of coronavirus, with all the polemics, boredom, paranoia, loneliness, despair and fading hopes that each and every one of us had to deal with.” So he gives us his solo Pandemic blues album.

The title track begins the album as Slim bemoans the year of the Pandemic and more. He thought 2019 set us up for good times. He tells us he’d laugh in your face if you told him in 2019 that people would be running around in masks. He tells us we’re killing African Americans essentially like a bunch of lynch mobs as he relates the killing of George Floyd to Emmett Till and the 1921 Black Wall Street Massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It’s a powerful cut.

He follows that with “The Goddamn China Cough,” and it’s obvious where that song is going. He sings that China might have given us macaroni, but now they’ve given us something far worse. “Little Wheel Rag” is a bouncy love song to his woman about how he wants to light the flame and make her happy. Next is “Gotta Go Somewhere,” where Big Creek sings of his love for his woman but can’t stand how she acts which is driving him away. “Mama Got Me Sweepin’” is a whistling tune about his woman got him weeping and sweeping, another song about dying slowly in a bad relationship. In “Those Same Old Blues” Slim howls about needing to get his act together to get the blues out of his life. “Up In Smoke” continues in his feeling trapped with a ball and chain around his leg.

Things continue down the road of the blues in his life where someone is “Fishing In My Pond.” He says he knows his pond well and how could she think he wouldn’t find out? Up next is “That Medicine Show,” a cut about yearning for a vaccine (the medicine show) which will release us from the Pandemic’s servitude. He sings about all the things he’s gonna do when he gets his shot. Perhaps he was a bit overconfident as to what it would eventually do, but it’s still a cool number. “Going Back To Dimbo” follows, a song about longing to go home to this Swedish town. “Black And White Blues” is a cut about how he interacts with woman of varying colors. Black women satisfy him as no white woman can.

“I Flipped A Coin This Morning” is a song about making a decision about going to see his woman to see if she will have him or not. The final cut is “The Great Division” where Slim give us his take on how the world is divided in two. It doesn’t matter where you are from or what religion you are, there are just two kinds of people who are divided and distracted. We’ve forgotten to carry love and good will and we’re tearing each other apart, a somber reminder that we need to work together instead of trying to force one way or another on each other.

These albums are two fantastic sets of tunes. Big Creek Slim is a superb solo acoustic artist whose abilities on guitar, whether picking, strumming, sliding or whatever, are amazing. And as I said preciously, his guitar and vocals hearken back to perhaps a century ago from the Mississippi Delta. Slim’s work warrants attention. He is a great artist and his music is a modernistic throwback to an era long past, yet the topics he writes, sings and plays about are 100% about issues today. These two albums from just before and during the Pandemic give us a great appreciation of traditional acoustic blues used to deliver timely and current messages about our world. I highly recommend Big Creek Slim’s albums for your listening pleasure!

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.


 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 7 

imageUncle Albert – Slip In Time

Blue Lotus Recordings

10 tracks

Uncle Albert was founded by Tim Albert in 1991 in St. Louis. Their popularity has risen and grown over the years, and this is their sixth album. They do about 200 shows a year while touring the US and Europe, so they are a hard working band.

The band is Tim Albert (guitar and vocals), Lisa Campbell (keyboards and vocals), Keith Robinso (drums and vocals on one cut), and Vince Corkery (bass). Their electric sound is well done and the quartet is tight. This album is long awaited by their fans as there was about a 15 year gap in their releases.

The album starts off with a pleasant, acoustic cut called “No More Roses,” featuring some well done acoustic guitar and fiddle. The vocals are solid, a nice, soft ballad. “In The Middle of the Night” follows, a vocal duo piece with Tim and Lisa sharing the lead. It’s another nice cut with some good backing. “Who’s Cryin’ Now” has Campbell on vocals and is a fun and bouncy cut with the piano featured up front. A good guitar solo is also offered up. “Telephone” is next, with Albert doing some fine, slow blues for us. The piano is again featured and is done well, and gives us solo work to enjoy in a couple of spots in the song. Up next is the title track; some cool flute is added in this jazzy blues number. Albert leads the charge as the flute and piano and offer some staunch and great support.

The funky “Ain’t That a…” follows with drummer Keith Robinson handling the vocals. Albert gives us some grooving guitar and the bass support is great here. “That’s Why” is next, a softer cut with slide guitar. Campbell leads the band in another pretty ballad. “Big Town” gets a good little boogie going on piano and guitar; Campbell again fronts the effort and it’s another cool and enjoyable cut. The guitar solo and strident vocals make this one a winner. “The River” brings back the fiddle and we get Tim out front and Lisa right behind him backing him nicely on the choruses. The final track is “Time’s Too Short.” The slide guitar reappears and this midtempo flows well for a good listen. Albert gives us his final guitar solo on this last track.

This is a solid album done by a very good band. The songs are all originals and the vocals are well done. These guys are professionals and deliver a nice set of tunes for listeners to enjoy.

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.


 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 7 

imageBC Hudson – Everyday Blues

self release

8 songs time – 42:35

Cleveland, Ohio’s BC Hudson has rounded up mainly a first class roster of musicians to back up his spoken lyrics that remotely verge on singing. He touches on a variety of everyday topics. Aside from his own guitar and bass playing, he employs a number of able guitarists to provide a sturdy blues foundation for his spoken ruminations on the day to day grind that is life.

Ray Flanagan’s guitar adds fire to perhaps the bluesiest song here, “Rust Belt Blues”. Justin Tibbs adds saxophone to “I Used To Be Happy” for a bit of bluesy variety to the usual guitar fest. Here and throughout the percussion is sparse but effective, with the absence of kit drums. A more atmospheric and rambling guitar stew underlies the lyrics of “Miles Of Bad Road”. At one point Morris Billingsley unleashes a jarring bit of distorted guitar that awakens ones senses in a refreshing way.

The one guitarist that I recognize, DC Carnes, contributes meandering blues riffs to the self-explanatory “Get Outta My House”. The ode to the pitfalls of married life, “Married Blues”, delivers what I think is the best line of the record-“Gotta ask my wife if I can have the blues”. A bit of blues humor is a nice touch. Danny Gerald lends some rhythmic harmonica to accent Daryl Rowland’s guitar on the slow and bluesy “When The Train Comes”. “Time Stands Still” wraps things up on a slow and rather depressing note. Oh well I guess that’s why they call it the blues.

If you take a liking to bluesy guitar riffing, this is the place for you. As for singing I would be hard pressed to call this singing, although BC’s messages are conveyed in his lyrics. I guess you could call this music an acquired taste. If rustic rootsy reflections on life are your thing, this is where it can be found.

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

blues and rhythm mag ad image

BB logo

© 2022 Blues Blast Magazine 116 Espenscheid Court, Creve Coeur, IL 61610 (309) 267-4425

Please follow and like us: