Issue 16-42 October 20, 2022

Cover photo © 2022 Eric Halverson

 In This Issue 

Mark Thompson has our feature interview with Carl “Buffalo” Nichols. We have four Blues reviews for you this week including new music from The Mighty Soul Drivers, B. Christopher Band, Breezy Rodio and Mick Kidd and David Blight. Scroll down and check it out!



 Featured Interview – Carl “Buffalo” Nichols 

imageLast year, Fat Possum Records, the label that brought world-wide attention to Mississippi Hill Country blues artists including R.L Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Robert Belfour, T-Model Ford, and others, released a recording by a relatively unknown acoustic blues artist. Those who bothered to listen to the record had to come away impressed with Carl “Buffalo” Nichols’ talents as a singer, guitarist, and songwriter. So far, the record has garnered some well-deserved critical praise, but has yet to make any in-roads in with award nominations.

One potent example of his skills comes on the song “Another Man”. Singing in solemn tones, accompanied by his intricate guitar pickling, he reminds us that things haven’t really changed. “When my grandpa was young, he had to hold his tongue. They’d hang you from a bridge downtown, now they call it “stand your ground”. Another man is dead.”

Born in Houston, Texas, Nichols moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin as a young boy with his family. A few years later, he started messing around with his older sister’s acoustic guitar. By the time he reached middle school, he was already playing in bands.

“At the time, I was just a kid with nothing better to do. Playing the guitar clicked with me – didn’t really need to think about it. It made sense. Playing music just seemed like the right thing to do. In those days, I was playing everything, like Latin jazz, death metal, reggae, West African music, bluegrass, hip hop, and a little bit of blues here and there. From the beginning, I just wanted to play everything.”

The aspiring musician played in a wide variety of bands, taking advantage of the vibrant Milwaukee music scene. While none of his musical endeavors managed to break out on a larger scale, the steady work allowed Nichols to dedicate himself to music as a full-time career.

As you would expect, his early influences run the gamut of musical genres.

“Early on, it was artists like Chuck Berry and the Ramones. That was material that I could learn to play easily. It wasn’t long before I was listening to Jimi Hendrix, who was a big influence. Other guitar players like Marty Friedman, Tony MacAlpine, and Jason Becker were also a big part of the foundational period for me. My desire to understand the roots of things led me to Chuck Berry, which was about as far back as I could go at that age 11 or 12 years old. It was interesting and new to me, as well as being something I could understand musically while being able to imitate it.”

imageWhile he wasn’t raised in the church, Nichols also ventured into playing gospel music as one more avenue to a wider education, serving stints in several contemporary Baptist gospel bands. There was a time when he was playing in as many as ten bands, a tough way to earn a living but a surefire way to keep the creative juices flowing.

“By the time I was 18 years old, playing music was what I did. Primarily I stayed in Milwaukee, although from time to time I played in several bands in Madison, Wisconsin. I kept my weeks booked playing guitar in local bands. In 2015, I started to publicly put myself out there as a front person. I was working on things, doing home recordings. I started using the name Buffalo Nichols on-line in 2010. In 2017, I went full into it, playing shows under that name, presenting myself as a blues and folk artist.”

Growing up, Nichols was developed a strong interest in the Buffalo soldiers, the name that Native American tribes gave to a regiment of Black cavalry formed in the aftermath of the Civil War. Another touch point was the fact that his grandfather served in an all-black infantry unit during the Korean War, also known as Buffalo soldiers, up until an order from President Truman lead to steps to desegregate the all branches of the US military.

Another turning point came as Nichols started traveling, first doing some solo tours across the US. It wasn’t long before he wanted to take things further.

“In 2016, I was starting my journey as a songwriter. That lead me to start booking tours in Europe, playing shows and meeting people. I went back every year as things began to grow. After four years, I had built up my fan base, allowing me to tour regularly, specifically in Spain, Poland, and Ukraine. I spent a lot of time in Ukraine during Russia’s first invasion, when it was still being called a civil war. I got to see how things really were as compared to what we see through the media. Now things are more or less transparent.

“The main thing I took away from my travels is that there is a place that appreciates roots music, folk music, in a different way. It is still pretty hard to make a living playing blues or any other folk music in the United States. Being an artist in general is a bit more respected overseas, so I was able to feel a sense of pride for being somebody who makes music. I was appreciated for my music there first, then I came back and started doing the work to make it happen here.

“As far as venues, I was playing bars, small music clubs, and an occasional cultural center. In Ukraine particularly, there isn’t much of an infrastructure for folk music, so a lot of folk musicians will play in the same clubs that rock bands are booking. The difference in playing overseas is the attendance. When I was a totally new artist over there, I would play to 50-100 people. There isn’t a lot of money going into promotion. Things happen more by word of mouth, curious people that come out to give you a chance without knowing who you are. That gave me the confidence to keep doing it.

imageNichols booked his first few tours on his own, but it didn’t take long for him to line up booking agents in various regions. He appreciates being able to reach that point, of having a team supporting him, so early in his career.

Another key element in his artistry led Nichols to do a deep dive into West African, playing it seriously for several years in addition to studying the culture the music came from. He played in Milwaukee and Chicago with musicians from Senegal, Mali, and Guinea. Eventually, he made a trip to Senegal to delve deeper into the roots of the music.

Those experiences lead him to another facet of his musical journey.

“It seemed like the natural next step in the process of defining who I am as an artist was to take that same journey with my own culture. I learned a lot about the West African musicians I played with. So I wanted to take that approach for blues and African-American folk music, to make that my “thing”. The term West African music can cover as broad a territory as blues music in all of its varieties. They do share certain musical ideas like call-and-response and some improvisational aspects. Generally the music is distinctly different.

“In the last couple of years, I have spent a lot of time focusing on the music of Skip James and Bukka White. There are others but those two had what I was looking for in the music, so there was a strong connection. With James, the music was a lot more personal, more introspective than a lot of his contemporaries.”

Listening to his self-titled release on Fat Possum Records, one is quickly struck by the depth of the original material, and the deft touch that Nichols utilizes to blend familiar sounds from the blues legacy with lyrics that tackle modern issues with blazing intensity.

“For me, songwriting is a different process every time. I think most songwriters eventually figure out the one-on-one of how to write a song, which can be a simple thing. But writing a good song……there’s no formula to making that happen. It can just come to you, or you have to try to change things up. I have tried all of the methods. When the need arises, I can sit down and write a song, but there might not be any kind of special connection. Other times songs that have a very real meaning sneak up on you, so you have to dig, edit, rewrite, and rewrite to accurately convey that meaning. A handful of songs on the album are ones I have been performing for several years, so I knew what they were about. The others were born in the studio.

“It’s been an intense couple of years. There has been plenty of social action, lots of posturing, and certainly too much inaction. At this point, I am doing more observing. Everything is cyclical. Things have a way of repeating themselves, which can leave you feeling that is unnecessary to get involved, as things will come back around. Other times you do get motivated to make a difference, the other part of the cycle. Right now I am writing songs, and watching”

With his album getting a strong response, Nichols is pleased that there is still a place in the world for acoustic blues music.

image“I never imagined that playing mostly acoustic blues that anyone would care. But a lot of people have noticed. It makes me realize that I have come a long way. Yet I still have more to say as an artist. In that regard I am not quite satisfied. But I am glad that listeners took the time to listen to what I am doing.”

After living in Austin, Texas for several years, Nichols is back in Milwaukee. But unlike his earlier years, he now is free of the constant gig schedules with a multitude of bands. “I don’t play much in Milwaukee any more. I think I have graduated past the local artist stage, now focusing mostly on touring.

These days Nichols is using the Mavis, a Mule brand Resophonic guitar. “It is a chambered, solid body guitar, which you see me playing most often. I also have a Recording King Tricone resonator guitar, which is a metal unit. There has been a lot of rotation, but those two are my main guitars. Throughout my career, I have never been stuck on one particular amplifier. Usually I go with whatever is available. I have been using a Boss GT-1000 effects pedal with a VHT D-50 amplifier. I also did a Supro Delta King amp for a stretch.”

Asked to describe his music, Nichols quickly admits an inability to find suitable words to paint an accurate picture. “It doesn’t help me, not being able to describe my own music. The one thing I am trying to do is to be true to myself, what makes me unique. If you look me up on the streaming platforms, you will hear me doing mostly straight-forward acoustic blues. The music that I am making now is a bit more difficult to describe. It is blues, but heavily experimental, intentionally progressive with a mixture of many genres that I have learned from over the years. There is a lot going on.”

With plans for a second album in the year ahead, the guitarist is looking to continue to tour, which he has done quite a bit of this year, but still finds it difficult to get all of the pieces to come together.

“At this point, I have given the blues industry about as much as I have to give. My intention from the start was to participate in blues music, but it has been a real uphill battle. I was written up in Rolling Stone magazine before any blues publication reached out to me. I think it would be a disservice to me if I keep trying to prove myself to people who aren’t interested in at I have to say. Blues is not a competitive genre in terms of sheer numbers. There aren’t as many blues artists as there are country or indie artists. There is a lot to dig through, which gets compounded because people are also selective.

“So, if you are discovering me for the first time, know that I will always be a blues artist. I might not be at the festivals, or always using the word. It will always be a part of what I am doing. If that matters to you, just look for me to be doing my own thing.”

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying the sun and retirement. He is the past President of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and a former member of the Board of Directors for the Blues Foundation. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!



 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 4 

imageThe Mighty Soul Drivers – I’ll Carry You Home

Hog Heaven Records

11 tracks

This New England soul band has worked for a decade to perfect their sound. Featuring veteran musicians, these guys are superb. Bob Orsi fronts the band and plays some rhythm guitar; he’s a solid singer with a voice that beautifully blends passion and power. River City Slim (Peter Rost) handles the drums, Larry Wiley is on lead guitar, Tony Delisio is on bass, Steve Donovan plays keys, John Smayda is on the saxes, and Neil Tint is on trumpet and flugelhorn. Paul Gabriel delivers guitar solos on a couple of cuts as  does Michael St. George on another one. Slim and Orsi put this band together and they are delivering a fine second album for us all to savor.

They begin with a cool cover of “Can’t Get Next to You,” a slow and funky cover of this Temptations classic. Great vocals, backing vocals, guitar and a a deep groove make this cut special. Next is the title track, a pretty and slow blues ballad. Orsi’s vocals, backing vocals and Tint’s horn sell this one. “Party By The Tower” picks up the pace as the band sets a nice groove and Orsi swings through the lead. More great backing vocals on this one, too, and there’s also a nice sax and guitar solo.” A Little Bit of That” follows, a mid tempo piece with nice organ and horns that set the table for Orsi to shine.

Solomon Burke’s “Cry To Me” gets a cool cover by Orsi and the Soul drivers along with Denise Powell who helps on the vocals. They sing with depth and emotion and the horns help this be a winner. Next is “I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog,” a great Bobby Blue Bland tune that the band adapts to their sound. It’s a cool rendition and they make it their own. Nice guitar work here, too. “Cold, Cold Night” is a slick original that gets the body moving. Big guitar solo here (Gabriel) and a nice organ solo adds to the mix and sweetly and takes us home. “Tell Daddy” is up next, a cover of Clarence Carter’s hit song. Orsi again shines vocally; the extended tenor sax solo is really excellent here, too, lasting for almost the entire second half of the song.

A trio of original cuts concludes the album. “Parking Lot Blues” is a nice, soulful, slow blues where Denise Powell backs Orsi again. “Piece of My Pride” is a bouncy swinging cut with more sublime vocals, sax and extended piano work; well done!. They finish up with “Dressed to Kill,” a funky tune with a nice groove.  Smayda again kills it on sax and Orsi and the band deliver a final performance leaving the listener wanting for more.

This is my first exposure to these guys but it won’t be my last. These guys are a great band; a fine set of musicians who can funky it up with anyone. Seven new cuts and four fine covers make for an outstanding sophomore release. I really enjoyed this album as will anyone looking for great, new soul blues to savor! I hope to have an opportunity to catch these guys live soon!

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer 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 – 2 of 4 

imageB. Christopher Band – Snapshots From The Second Floor

13 tracks

Christopher is a composer who is best known for having his original music in over 30,000 placements on many a TV network. Nathan East, Anton Fig, Gerald Albright, Shawn Pelton, Andy Snitzer, Stu Hamm, Kenny Aronoff, Studebaker John and Jerry Portnoy, to name a few, have all lent their talents to his recordings.

This is his sixth CD, and joining Christopher  (who plays guitar) are EJ “Moose” Boles (vocals) Anton Fig (drums) Studebaker John (harmonica), Nick Douglas and Eric Collier (bass). Christopher evolved out of blues clubs into the TV musical enigma he is today. This album showcases his deep roots in the blues.

The rocking cut “All Twisted Up” starts things off. It’s a rousing instrumental boogie with fiery guitar and gritty harp. A super start! “Where You At” follows, a slow and cool blues with more well done guitar and some gutsy vocals. “Sugar Baby” is another great instrumental, this time a slow one featuring Christopher’s thoughtful and masterful guitar. Next is “Talk To Me,” a swinging blues with some nice guitar picking, great harp support, a bouncing groove and slick vocals. “Take It Home” is a driving, rocking blues instrumental with stinging guitar and some more cool fills on harp.

“Who You Gonna Turn To Now” gets a little funk going as Moose lets it hang out a bit and Christopher lays out the groove and offers up a fun solo and then both of them take us home. They get a little bit of a rock infused country instrumental twang going in ”Something’s Wrong.” There’s lots of pretty guitar playing here. “Late Night Crying” follows, a solid, slow blues with some extended guitar licks and harp that adds so much to the feeling. “Deep Dish Grit” is another cool instrumental that has a throwback sound that hearkens to Chicago blues of yesteryear. Studebaker John greases up his harp and he and B. Christopher give it their all here.

The boogie gets going with “Ain’t That Cold.” Moose howls out the vocal lead while Christopher blazes on the guitar. “Like A Fool” follows that and things switch to having a sultry and sexy feel as the boys give us a slow to midtempo instrumental with a little bit of a Latin infused into it. “Thirty Years” is a great shuffle with lots of guitar and harp to savor. The album finishes out with “Smoke,” a slow and thoughtful instrumental piece with slide guitar that floats and soars.  It’s a nice transition and conclusion to an outstanding album.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at first. A prolific TV musical personality making a blues album? Well, it worked out just fine. B. Christopher wrote every song and nails each and every one of them with solid performances by he and his band mates.  Alternating instrumentals and vocal pieces, we get to see what Christopher can do and it’s all damn good. I enjoyed this album and I think all blues fans will too!

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer 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 4 

imageBreezy Rodio – Underground Blues

WindChill/Bloos Records BLO-15

14 songs – 56 minutes

Since emigrating from Rome to Chicago in the early 2000s, Breezy Rodio has proven himself as a top-notch bluesman and one of the most distinctive guitarists in the business, and he reaches new heights on his latest CD, a tour-de-force effort that was captured in Texas under the supervision of producer/fret master Anson Funderburgh.

Breezy – a nickname derived from his birth name, Fabrizio – uses his thumb rather than a pick to deliver the tasty single-note runs that serve as his trademark, writing tunes that could have fit comfortably in the golden era of ‘50s Windy City blues and the soul-blues that followed a decade later – not surprising when you consider that he spet a decade as Linsey “The Hoochie Man” Alexander’s bandleader for a decade before launching a solo career himself with the self-produced Playing My Game Too in 2011.

Interspersing blues and soul with a touch of reggae, too, Rodio’s released three other successful albums prior to this one: So Close to It on Wind Chill in 2014 and Sometimes the Blues Got Me and If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It on Delmark in 2018 and 2019. And he shared credits with vocalist Joe Barr on Soul for the Heart, which appeared the French label DixieFrog last year.

Captured and mixed by Stuart Sullivan at Wire Recording in Austin and describes as “Chicago West Side modern blues,” this all-original effort features contributions from Dan Tabion on keys, Josh Fulero on harmonica, Johnny Bradley on bass and Lorenzo Francocci on drums. And Funderburgh steps out from behind the control board to sit in on six-string for two cuts.

Anson’s on lead for the slow burner, “Half Way in the Devil’s Gate,” to open. It’s a haunting number, both because of its theme and because Breezy – who delivers his lyrics with only the slightest hint of his homeland – feels as if he has no heart and that he’s right where he needs to be in order to get away from a woman who’s done him wrong. His emptiness is amplified through the use of reverb and other tricks that render him appearing to be singing from a distance.

Things brighten immensely with the steady shuffle, “C.H.I.C.A.G.O.,” a cleverly penned tribute that spells out all of the positive attributes of Rodio’s adopted hometown, shows off his own six-string skills for the first time and gives Tabion and Fulero space to shine. The funk kicks in for the title tune, “Underground Blues,” a complaint about being in lockdown during COVID-19, which is propelled by a rock-steady guitar riff before Funderburgh joins in on the percussive warning to a game-playing lady that the singer will be “Playing My Game Too.”

Up next, Breezy tries to set an addicted friend straight in the soulful “That Damn Cocaine” before “The Murder” describes a man attempting to escape a woman scorned then serves up more tough love in the unhurried “Lightning Strike” while letting his six-string do most of the talking. The uptempo “The Asymptomatics” gives everyone a chance to workout instrumentally then yields to the 12/8 blues, “Let Me Go,” a lover’s lament that mentions the recently shuttered club, B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted, where “everybody knows” the woman’s name.

“Gerry Told Me,” which follows, describes the singer’s determination to carve a name for himself in the music business then gives way to “Hello Friendo,” a Big Easy pleaser with a rhumba beat, prior to “Sugar Daddy,” a traditional 12-bar tribute to blues giants that doesn’t call out anyone by name. Two more pleasers — “Why Did You Go,” a contemporary old-school blues, and “Bluesoned,” an autobiographical number with spoken-word elements in which Breezy states his desire to be a prime mover in keeping the blues alive – bring the disc to a close.

Successfully walking a tightrope between contemporary and traditional, Breezy Rodio serves up a winner here, remaining faithful to his forbears while cutting new ground, too. I liked it, and you will, too!

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 – 4 of 4 

imageMick Kidd and David Blight – It’s All Worth It


CD: 12 Songs, 52 Minutes

Styles: Acoustic Blues, Duo Album, All Original Songs

Have you ever started listening to an album and feared you wouldn’t finish it because you got addicted to the first song? That’s exactly what happened when I heard the title track of It’s All Worth It, the third release from Australian duo Mick Kidd and David Blight. These two have teamed up on a regular basis over the past decade, representing the Adelaide Roots & Blues Association at the 2016 International Blues Challenge, performing gigs from Memphis to Melbourne along with numerous festivals in Adelaide, Darwin, Docklands in Melbourne, Bruthen and Bendigo.

This CD has been a long time in coming, but at last, these eleven bold and brash Australian blues tunes (plus a ghost track recorded live in Darwin) have made their official debut. Each one has its own particular charm, with “Purgatory” and “Blue Collar Blues” standing out as surefire ear worms. “Along Love’s Edge” possesses gorgeous melody throughout, with David Blight’s harmonica keening in the throes of heartbreak. Yours truly imagines him playing this song in the dead of night along the Pascoe River, a full moon the only illumination for miles around. “Beaten by the Bottle Again” is propelled by a seven-note refrain that will have you counting them just to make sure. It’s an intriguing takeoff on a traditional blues beat, off-kilter in its cadence – drunk, you might say. When it launches into its middle section, hold on for a wild ride.

Some albums, like some books, movies and other forms of art, are all about flash instead of form. Slick production values and big-name acts can hide mediocre musicianship, lackluster songwriting, and an overall dearth of feeling. Not with these guys! Just play “Boneyard” and you’ll see. They go all out, holding nothing back and baring their souls through their instruments of choice. It’s an explosive number, so be sure to turn the volume of your old stereo up to 9, not 11.

Mick Kidd plays acoustic, electric and bass guitars. He also stomps and performs lead vocals on several tracks. David Blight conquers the harmonica, percussion, and lead vocals for the others.

The only flaw on this magnificent CD is that the instrumentation often overpowers the vocals. Listen closely or you might miss these great lyrics (don’t worry – they’re in the liner notes) : “Calloused fingers, lack of sleep / Beer-stained clothes, not much to eat / No drink rider, blown-up van / Miles and miles of brown dry land / Hit the next city, back street pub / Door deal only, now here’s the rub / Loading out at 3 AM / Swear I won’t do this place again / But it’s worth it, playing for you / It’s all worth it!”

So is this album. Get it NOW, mates!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 43 year old female Blues fan. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

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