Issue 16-45 November 10, 2022


Cover photo © 2022 SPAH

 In This Issue 

Mark Thompson has our feature interview with Ronnie Shellist. We have ten Blues music reviews for you this week including new music from Prakash Slim, Derrick Procell, Kat Riggins, Rusty Stone, Mojomama, Junior Wells, Until The Sun, Mick Kolassa, Caboose and Joey J. Saye. Bob Kieser reviews a sold out performance by Joe Bonamassa. Scroll down and check it out!


 Featured Interview – Ronnie Shellist 

imageEarlier this year, a new album started making the rounds, simply titled The Dig 3. Knowledgeable blues fans undoubtedly recognized the names of lead singer Andrew Duncanson and multi-instrumentalist Gerry Hundt. Their contributions to the new album dig into the heart of the blues tradition, as you would expect from two veterans who have always played the music with the utmost love and respect.

What helps make the record extra special is the fine harmonica blowing from Ronnie Shellist, a name that quite possibly is unfamiliar to many blues listeners. And even fewer listeners have heard Shellist play live. But once you hear his stellar contributions on song after song, he is sure to become one of your favorite harp players.

To reach this point in his life, Shellist has followed a road less traveled. While he may not be a household name, his influence on the world of harmonica extends around the world.

In 2020, Shellist made a move to Champaign, Illinois just as the pandemic was breaking out. For a number of years, he had been touring and recording with the Kilborn Alley Blues Band. Now he lived a few minutes away from his good friend, lead singer Andrew Duncanson.

“We played constantly through the pandemic, doing live streams and grabbing gigs where we could. I spent a lot of my time teaching. My website business exploded because I was ahead of the pack with on-line offerings. A lot of harp players were calling me, asking for help in getting set-up. I was happy to help out. And I started the Global Blues Harmonica summits that featured famous players like Kim Wilson, Howard Levy, Charlie Musselwhite, and Dennis Gruenling. It was a way to give back, as I could pay them really well, do what I love, and use my audience to help my friends. We also released a home recording Andrew and I did with Gerry Hundt and Ed Kobek, called Hangover Blues, Vol. 1., that is really good.”

Shellist and Hundt became good friends in Colorado, before Hundt moved to Illinois to be a member of the Flip Tops, the band backing noted guitarist Nick Moss. Along with Duncanson, they often found opportunities to make music together.

‘Gerry is constantly gigging, multiple gigs a day, six or seven days a week, many as a one man band. He is a crazy man, and one of my best friends on the planet. One day after the start of the pandemic, I invited Gerry to come out to my house, promising to keep things safe, and I also got Andrew to come by. We sat in my back yard, doing a live stream that can now be viewed on my YouTube channel. We had so much fun that we did it a few more times informally. Then, once things started to open up, we began to book gigs. That was the start of the Dig 3.

“I think it was Andrew’s suggestion to get Gerry and go into the recording studio. Andrew wrote all of the songs with a project like this in mind. He is a monster songwriter. He has recorded hundreds of songs, has has hundreds more waiting to be recorded. I may be biased, but I believe Andrew’s singing and songwriting rank with the best on the planet. We knocked it out live, no overdubs, one or two takes.

We are now looking at booking some dates for live shows. Right now the only date on the books is for the Winter Blues Fest in Iowa in February next year.

“Also, Rodrigo Mantovani, from the Nick Moss Band, played on three tracks on the album. Now that I have moved back to Colorado, Rodrigo can play with Andrew and Gerry as his schedule permits, to keep the Big 3 name floating around. Gerry had booked some studio time to record two more tracks, but I was not available to fly in for the session. He asked if I minded if he got Rodrigo to fill in. I thought it was a very cool idea, as Rodrigo is a monster player, and those tracks have a different vibe than the rest of the album. There might be some shows with Rodrigo joining us down the road. We have never played together.”

Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Shellist moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas, where he majored in Spanish with a minor in Business.

“I barely got my degree in Spanish. My thought was to go into international business somehow, but I quickly realized that I didn’t want to do the business side, so I started teaching Spanish. I even tried to start my own business, doing interpretations. Having spent a lot of time in South America, Central America, and Spain, I was at a high level of fluency with the language. Learning the language gave me plenty of ear training, which certainly has helped make me a better musician.

“Being in Texas, I decided that Spanish made sense, plus I excelled at it in high school. I had a knack for it, both hearing and speaking it quickly. Because I was a poor all around student otherwise, it made sense to major in Spanish at college. It was easier for me, and there was a need for Spanish speakers.

“It was a big part of my life just before the music began. In my senior year of college, I picked up a harmonica, flirting with it. Then I couldn’t put it down. The weird thing about music is that once you playing an instrument, it just keeps calling you. If you put yourself out there, the opportunities come. If you are passionate about it, you keep taking those opportunities. That is what pulled me into doing music full time.”

The genesis of his passion for the harmonica was a visit to his parents while in college. His father had bought a harmonica, which came with an instruction book.

“I saw it laying around. I asked my father if he was playing. He said, no, he couldn’t figure it out. I had tried to take guitar lessons as a kid. My Dad wasn’t much of a musician but he did play a bit of piano for fun. He exposed me to music. Once I picked up his harmonica, I was able to learn “Oh! Susanna”, After that I was hooked as it was very rewarding to play a song, which I never did very well on the guitar. I kept messing around with it until I fell in love with blues music. Being in Austin in 1993, I started getting exposed to guys like Walter T. Higgs and Guy Forsyth, who were phenomenal harp players, plus teachers like Michael Rubin and J.P. Allen.image

“It was a vibrant music scene. I will never forget one night Guy was playing at a club called Maggie May’s. No one was listening to him blowing amplified harp through a Fender Super Reverb amp. I had one of those moments that people talk about, where everything stops and blacks out, I was so entranced. That was my first experience hearing blues harmonica live, and that was the moment I was hooked!”

Austin at that time had a wealth of clubs featuring live blues music, including the renown Antone’s venue. Many blues artists and bands made a point of stopping in Austin to take advantage of the opportunities to play. For Shellist, that meant a steady stream of stars that got him invested in the music first, developing a love for what he was hearing.

“Another influential moment happened before I moved to Colorado in 1997. I took a trip to visit my brother in Key West, Florida. He suggested we go to a local blues club as he knew I was playing harmonica. We didn’t know who was there, just went to check it out. It turned that one of better Delta blues artists, Big Jack Johnson, was on the bill. When we walked in, there was a guy at the door dressed in a suit, who I assumed was the door man. When I asked him who was playing, he replied, “I am.” So I asked if he had a harmonica player. He said no, but asked me if I play. I hesitantly replied, yes. Jack said he would call me up later.

“So my first experience sitting in with a band, not a blues jam, was with Big Jack Johnson. He was such a sweetheart of a guy, and after I got done playing with him that evening, it set me on fire. I was ready to make the full commitment. I couldn’t sleep that night. I was addicted. So I then went out and started playing with many bands. One of the biggest was the Hugh Fadal Band. They did hill country blues meets pop, kind of everything. I recorded my first couple of CDs with Hugh Fadal and the singer/songwriter Chris Gonzalez. After the move, it became obvious that I was failing at the part of my business that included Spanish, so I went for it. I did the jams, kept meeting people, playing and recording with at least a dozen acts during my two decades in Colorado.”

The move was a spur-of-the-moment decision. Shellist simply loaded up his car and took off without telling anyone. He had fond memories of the state from travels with his family at a younger age. The mountains certainly worked their magic on him.

Of all of the bands he was involved with, the biggest project was the Shuffletones, with Jeremy Vasquez as the singer and guitarist. Shellist would help out on the vocals. They made a name for themselves in the Denver area, holding down a regular Saturday night gig, with a packed house the norm. They cut their lone recording, Chicago Sessions, in 2006, with the help of Nick Moss. Shellist’s last recording, ‘Til Then, was released in 2012. (Recordings available at

“Early on in Colorado, before I fell into the blues scene, I was craving to play with a band full-time. One day, I saw a Post It at a music store that said, “looking for instrumentalists – keyboard player, saxophone, or otherwise.” I thought, shit, I play the harmonica. Well, I ended up getting the gig, spending a year and a half with a band that played psychedelic funk rock. It was a very eclectic, heavy group called Available Jones. I was using effects peddles. We toured and recorded an album in late 1999.

“That experience exposed me to a lot of funk and fusion jazz bands in addition to the blues, especially artists like James Brown and Funkadelic. But I was also into the major blues artists like Lightnin’ Hopkins and Muddy Waters. Then there were the kings of harmonica like Sonny Boy Williamson, Lazy Lester, Slim Harpo, and James Cotton. I can’t point to just one player because I loved them all. That said, my list of top harp influences would have guys like William Clarke, Kim Wilson, Sonny Boy II, Snooky Pyror, and Gary Primich, who I got to hear a bunch because he was in Austin.

“William Clarke had a thing going on that was so special. He was so powerful in the key areas – passion, musical creativity, phrasing, and a monster technician. I don’t know of any other player who walked this planet who did so much for the harmonica, other than Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson I (John Lee Williamson). I didn’t discover him until I was transitioning to Colorado. I stopped to call a friend on the way. I told him I was listening to William in the car and being overwhelmed by how much I am falling in love with his music. There was a pause, and then my friend asked me if I knew that Clarke had just passed away. I remember getting in my car and crying for a hour straight. His music impacted me so much that I felt like I had lost a best friend, and I was sad that I would never get to see him. So many people have been influenced by his legacy.

“Then, with Sonny Boy II (Rice Miller), it was his wah-wah sound. That helped me develop really solid hand techniques that I use a lot. I couldn’t get enough of that vocalization that you get from the harp that really helps your acoustic sound, allowing you to mock some vocal qualities.

“I guess that is a big part of what allows a player to get to the point where they develop their own style, their own approach, and a sound that is recognizable by many people. They have taken so much from so many different genres, and resources from different instrumentalists, not just harp players. They have processed all of it, and then it comes out, the tonalities and attacks. I didn’t love just one or two players. I fell in love with just about every recording I came across, and I soaked it all up.”

imageOne aspect of his career that has surprised Shellist is the opportunity to get to know many of the artists that have inspired him. Being friends with people like Wilson has been special, allowing him to see those he admires as friends, not just as musicians on a pedestal, as you live vicariously through their records. Being able to connect with them as people, so you can understand their music, has been enlightening for him.

Expanding his musical horizons even further, the harp player formed a duo with a guitarist named Moses Walker. “My final regular, focused project in Colorado was Walker Shellist, recording two albums as a duo in Denver. Walker is older hippie guy who plays Americana and old-time music mixed with jazzy stuff. He is wonderful, with a big baritone voice. He was a huge influence for teaching me how to play jazz melodies on the harp. If you are going to play “All Of Me” or “Sweet Georgia Brown,” you are nuts if you don’t play the melody. So I had to figure out things I had never learned on the harmonica. Now I want to continue to explore that side of music outside of the blues.”

Another aspect of Shellist’s career is his role as a harmonica instructor. Thanks to his girlfriend’s sister, he managed to take advantage of technological innovations to spread the word.

“It began because my family didn’t know what I sounded like, so I wanted to send them a video. The sister told me about this new thing called YouTube. I replied, what the hell is that? She convinced me to put the video up – and it went viral. That was a huge part of why I began teaching. That video went over a million views, and now is over two and a half million. I called it “Funky Blues Harmonica”. A couple other videos went viral as well.

“Before I knew it, messages were flying into the video comment section asking me how to do this or play that. Around 2007, I develop and built what is now Even though it was expensive, I created CDs and DVDs of some lessons. It was a gamble, but I quickly sold out of them. As the digital age slowly caught up, I built out downloadable harmonica lessons. Today, the website is a very robust site with interactive memberships, downloadable classes, and interactive live Zoom lessons. It is hard to believe how far we have come in a short time. From 2010 to 20114, I did live webinars with terrible connections, cranking out about 400 lessons during that time, that I then sold as recordings. Now I have deleted every one of them so I can start over with higher quality, new content. This is my bread and butter.

“People may wonder how much value there is trying to your harmonica skills from watching a video, when much of the action is inside the mouth. Still, there is a lot you can observe, like the way someone uses their hands or the way they use their body language to change the tone of the instrument. When Kim Wilson is playing a warble, he is looking straight up. There is a reason for that goes beyond showmanship. There are a lot of things that I train students to look for, so they aren’t just relying on their ears. A good harmonica teacher should understand the high level stuff they do, then break it down step by step. What is really comprises a beautiful vibrato, and being able to describe it, then watching and listening to the student to give them the feedback on what they need to improve. It is an art and a skill to teach well because I can’t show you what is going on in my mouth. But I can explain it quite well.”

“One thing that pushed me to become the musician I am was that coming up, I was constantly surrounded by people who were much better players than I was. As a musician, you should be pushing yourself to find people who will push you to be better. That is a key factor in maintaining the motivation you need to work hard to be successful. I am torn, being dedicated to the business I have grown with my teaching. At the same time, I am absolutely a musician who needs to get out there and play. That is how I get inspiration that I can bring into my teaching.”

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!


 Help Wanted – Writers 

Do you really know your Blues and enjoy telling others about it?

Blues Blast Magazine is looking for a few good writers to volunteer to help us out. We need writers for music reviews who know Blues and can write a minimum of two reviews a month.

We will provide access to downloads or physical CDs, DVDs and books for review. The writer keeps the album, book or DVD for doing the review. We get music submissions from all over the world. We publish music reviews each week so there is a steady flow of music that needs to be reviewed.

These are volunteer positions that need a person who really loves the Blues and wants to spread the Blues word! Must have good writing and composition skills, good grammar and spelling!

Familiarity with WordPress software that we use to post reviews or willingness to learn is helpful. (If you are familiar with Microsoft Word, it is similar. Very easy to use!)

Experienced writers are encouraged to send samples of previous work. All Blues Blast staff started out as volunteers like this. We have kept those with dedication on as staff writers afterwards.

If you are interested, please send an email to and tell us about your Blues background. A resume and/or writing samples are always appreciated too.

Please be sure to include your phone number in your email reply.


 Live Blues Review – Joe Bonamassa – Springfield, IL 11/4/22 

Blues Blast got the chance to cover the beginning of the Fall US tour by Blues Rock powerhouse Joe Bonamassa last week in Springfield, IL. Joe is touring with a great band that includes Josh Smith on rhythm guitar, Calvin Turner on Bass, Lamar Carter on Drums, backup singers Jade Macrae & Dani De Andreas and legendary keyboard player, Reese Wynans.

The show kicked off promptly at the scheduled 8pm start time to a sold out show in the 2000 seat UIS Performing Arts Center with the song “Dust Bowl”, the title cut from his 2011 album of the same name. They followed that up with “Evil Mama” and then “Love Ain’t A Love Song” from the 2018 album Redemption. Next they performed “Self Inflicted Wounds” off of Redemption followed by “Notches” from 2021’s Time Clocks album.

“Just Cause You Can” from Redemption was then followed by “Hidden Charms” and “Double Trouble” from 2015’s Muddy Wolf At Red Rocks.

Then we heard “Didn’t Think She would Do It” from 2020’s Royal Tea album followed by “Questions and Answers” and “The Heart That Never Waits” from his latest album Time Clocks.

Joe and the band finished out their set with “Lonely Boy” from Royal Tea followed by “Just Got Paid” from the 2010 album Live From Royal Albert Hall which got a standing ovation from the sold out crowd.

The band came back for an encore performing “Mountain Time” again from the Live From Royal Albert Hall album.

The show was a great performance by one of the best Blues Rock guitarists on the planet. The Fall tour continues through December 2nd. Joe and the band then head out for a US Spring tour in February followed by European tour beginning in April of 2023.

It is a great show so check out when they are coming to your area at

Reviewer Bob Kieser is editor and publisher of Blues Blast Magazine.

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 10 

imagePrakash Slim – Country Blues from Nepal

DeVille Records

13 tracks/37 minutes

Prakash Slim (born Ram Prakash Pokharel) was born in Nepal in 1980. Raised by his mother after his father’s early passing, his life was basically focused on survival. His hand me down bicycle was his treasured worldly possession, and he sold it to buy something he treasured even more– a guitar.

Some local lessons and practice got him going in 1998, and by 2000 he recorded his first pop song and was performing in public. He spent two years looking for a mentor; he found one in C.B. Chhetri who lived over 4 mikes away. That did not deter Prakash, and he eventually was offered a job in Chhetri’s band and played rock blues and instrumentals. He also got proficient enough to offer guitar lessons to others.

It was in 2008 while he was in a music teaching workshop sponsored by the US Cultural Embassy envoy that moved him to learn more and begin focusing more and more on the blues roots of the blues rock he was playing. He heard the Delta blues masters he was hooked. In 2015 he was invited to the US to attend a music retreat in San Francisco, but a major earthquake kept him home; he took solace in the Blues. It was when he was ill in 2017 that he fell upon the Acoustic Blues Pickers Facebook page which lead to a generous online friend sending him a resonator as a gift. He expanded his repertoire even more and began doing Blues in the Schools in Nepal to teach others about his passion and pass his love of The Blues to others. Now with international recognition for his work, he has released hi first album with seven original songs (which includes the two bonus tracks) and six covers.

The originals began with an instrumental “Blues Raga” that mixes 12 bar blues and a traditional Raga, and it’s pretty cool. “Living For The Memory” is a song about loneliness and memories of his past. His slide work here is excellent. “Villager’s Blues” is a cut about the toils and troubles of existing in his village.  He tells his story and picks out some more delightful stuff on his resonator. “Corona Blues” is Slim’s musical take on the pandemic and it adding to the woes he and his countrymen already experience. “Poor Boy” adds harp to his music (Fabrizio Poggi from Italy) as he sings about his past. The playing is well done and the song is a nice cut. “Bhariya Blues” is done in his native tongue, a slick slower to midtempo cut. The final original is “Garib Keto,” the Nepali version of “Poor Boy,” another good song and performance. While the lyrics can’t be understood unless you speak his tongue, one can see how The Blues easily transitions to another language across the globe and delivers passion and feeling.

The covers are Bukka White’s “Jitterbug Swing,” Charley Patton’s “Moon Going Down,” Robert Johnson’s ‘Me And The Devil Blues,” Mississippi Fred McDowell’s ‘You Gotta Move,” and Blind Blake’s “Police Dog Blues.” Despite his heavy accent, the cuts showcase that The Blues know no borders. The music of the plantation travel well and move the souls of of all who hear it.

Prakash Slim is a super guitar player and song writer. Henry D. Jones gave him a hand wit the lyrics and the original songs are all well crafted and performed. The Blues are alive both here and in Nepal thanks to Prakash Slim. If you are looking for something different and like resonator guitar, then this one might be for you!

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 10 

imageDerrick Procell – Hello Mojo!

Catfood Records

10 songs, 45 minutes

Soul Blues is born out of the genius inventions of 60’s and 70’s R&B artists such as Aretha Franklin, Otis Clay, Bobby Blue Bland, Otis Redding and Carla Thomas (to name just a few). Because this was the formative music of many Baby Boomers, it is no coincidence that many of the great Soul Blues leaders today are of that generation. Prolific commercial singer and frontman for hire, Derrick Procell’s new album Hello Mojo! is a near perfectly executed Soul Blues testament to the realities of love and aging for a midlife Boomer. Hello Mojo! is Procell’s Catfood Records debut. Produced by Soul Blues labelmate and exquisite Boomer Soul Blues commentator Zac Harmon, the 9 originals and single reassessed Kinks cover of “Who’ll Be Next In Line” create a full picture of what it means to be aging gracefully, and at times not so gracefully.

Derrick Procell is a Chicago guy. Blowing muscular harp, pounding the keys and signing with confident white guy soul somewhere between Delbert McClinton and Greg Allman, with a little Bozz Scaggs on the edges, Procell brought his Windy City bag down to West Texas – El Paso specifically the home of Catfood Records. Label owner and bassist Bob Trenchard deployed his band of straight killers, The Rays, on Hello Mojo!: Johnny McGhee on guitar, Richy Puga on drums, Dan Ferguson on keyboards, Andy Roman on tenor and alto saxs, Nick Flood on bari and tenor saxs, Mike Middleton on trumpet and Frank Otero on trombone. Munyungo Jackson adds percussion, Peter Neumer a sax solo, Steve Duncan a trombone solo and Sueann Carwell, Meredith Colby (Procell’s wife) and Jessica Ivey all add sumptuous background vocals throughout. Producer Zac Harmon adds 2 guitar solos and a track of additional guitar seamlessly with the band.

The strength in the interplay of The Rays only serves to accentuate Procell’s clever, double entendre laden songwriting and warm assured signing. Playing minimal harp and relinquishing the keyboard duties to Ferguson on all but 1 tune, Procell focuses on the songs and spins for us a window into the life of a person at the middle of the road. He balances catharsis, 2nd acts and endurance (in love and life). The title track is an audience participation ready greeting from a man rediscovering his zest. “The Contender” is a deep minor reflection on getting back in the ring, literally and metaphorically. “Skin in the Game” proudly proclaims continued relevance even in middle age while the ear worm “A Tall Glass of You,” is an infectious come-on to a long time lover.

The upbeat celebratory bruisers are all the more poignant when paired with the reflective weepers. “Broken Promise” is a leering boogie filled with memories and loss. “Baby I’m Lost” with it’s 60’s “On the Boardwalk” vibe perfectly holds the essence of youth and disillusionment. Album closer “Bittersweet Memory,” resplendent with big Soul horns, draws together the proceedings with a beautiful heartfelt swing through the past.

Derrick Procell has had a long and rewarding career as a singer. Recording for TV and movies and making music his life’s work, a few years back Procell decided to make a go with his own original material. Hello Mojo! is his 2nd record of this run and if it is any indication his mojo will be sticking around for quite some time.

Writer 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 – 3 of 10 

imageKat Riggins – Progeny

Gulf Coast Records

CD: 13 Songs, 50 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Soul Blues, All Original Songs

A word to the wise: Don’t let the free-flowing, soft-glowing pastel cover design of powerhouse songstress Kat Riggins’ latest CD fool you (like it did me). From its first notes, Progeny proves to be a hard-knocking, norm-shocking, blues-rocking statement. It’s not so much entertainment as exhortation, calling us to be our highest selves instead of “Sinking Low” (reviewed below). It’s also part of the personal movement Riggins calls a “Blues Revival,” and it’s got that spirit. Collective. Compelling. Most of all, contagious. These thirteen songs will worm their way into your head, heart and soul. A wide variety of styles – rock, soul, slow blues, funk and ballads – allows Riggins to display the full range of her talents. She goes from soothing to searing in seconds. If there’s any occlusion in this gem of an album, it’s that sometimes the instrumentation overpowers the lyrics. Kat’s got a message, and by golly, she’s going to be all-caps HEARD.

What is a “Blues Revival” anyway? According to Kat, it is a musical revolution that aims to awaken the masses and introduce them to the sincerity behind blues music. “It’s about the raw emotion in every note,” exclaims Kat Riggins as she attempts to describe her love of the genre. During a meet-and-greet after a sold-out show in Belgium, a fan once jokingly asked Kat if ever there was a time she “phoned it in” to avoid ending up exhausted, sweaty and bruised from the tambourine… “If I can move someone to feel what I feel when I sing a song, then it’s all worth it”, said the Miami born singer-songwriter.

Riggins isn’t the sole flame of brilliance available. Infernal blues guitar sensations Albert Castiglia and Mike Zito feature as well. Her stalwart “Warriors” include Melody Angel on guitar, Busta Free on rap break, Matt Johnson on drums, Doug Byrkit on bass, and Lewis Stephens on piano, organ, and keyboards.

Picking a single highlight out of this lucky baker’s dozen is like trying to decide which gourmet donut is the best. My first favorite is the second track, “Sinking Low.” With an ominous tick-tock beat and minor-key menace, it describes our current chaotic state of affairs. “Here we are – drowning in the noise, surrounded by the darkness. We can’t see which way is up, no, ‘cause we keep sinking low. We keep sinking low.” The hard-rock anthem “Warriors” reminds us there are always people in our corner, no matter our circumstances. “In My Blood” boils with NOLA spice, a short and savory homage to Kat’s kinfolk. “My City” crackles with urbane life on all fronts: vocal, instrumental, lyrical, and atmospheric. Last but not least comes a revelatory warning in “40 25:40.” One day, the Bible tells us, we’ll be separated on the right hand and the left of the Son of Man. The criterion for judgment? “What you do to the least of men, that, you do to Me.” It’s a bookend to “Sinking Low.” If we don’t love one another, we’ll certainly drown in hatred.

One more incentive to pick up Progeny:

It’s on the Grammy ballot for Best Contemporary Blues Album of the Year!

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


 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 10 

iageRusty Stone – The Blues In Me

RevStone Music

8 tracks

Munich, Germany, is home to Rusty Stone where he’s been a fixture on the blues scene since the 1980’s. Like most musicians, Stone found the pandemic to be full of angst and pressure, but it also became an opportunity to write songs and focus on playing other instruments. Here he sings and plays guitars, mandolin, banjo, harp, stompbox, and ukulele. Joining him are Tom Peschel on upright bass and Ludwig Seuss on accordion.   The album is rootsy, all acoustic, completely original and well-crafted overall.

The title track opens the album.  Stone plays some thoughtful resonator and sings in similar fashion– restrained, pensive and with feeling. Nice finger picking and equally good vocals set the tone for a fine acoustic blues CD. The pace picks up as Rusty strums and plays harp on “Enjoy Your Life,” a song about enjoying life now because you can’t take anything with you. “When I Was Young” is a slow blues with lots of feeling. Stone reflects back on days past and the fact that getting old is not always fun. He’s a great storyteller in his songs, lyrics and presentation. The accordion softly playing in the background helps set the mood here. In “A Song For You,” Stone returns to the up tempo guitar and harp and he does another great job with it.

“Another Story” is a Dylan-esque styled piece; his vocals here and harp hearken back to Dylan’s early days. Next is “Shelter You” where Stone gets more upbeat and sings about providing shelter and protection for his woman. He does some nice finger picking on this cut. “Old Enough” is another cut where getting old is in the topic of conversation; being able to sing the blues is certainly “enhanced” by aging and it is his passion. Rusty offers up a sweet solo on the resonator on this track. He concludes with a pretty instrumental entitled “Hummingbird.” Stone plays solo and fingerpicks his ukulele with feeling and emotion.

I’d not heard Stone’s music before; he does a superb job with his guitar work, songwriting and vocals. I look forward to searching out and hearing more of his stuff– he is well worth a listen!

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 – 5 of 10 

imageMojomama – We Are One


CD: 13 Songs, 62 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Improvisational Blues, All Original Songs

“Rise up from the ashes. We are human. We Are One.” This is the motivational message from Denver, Colorado’s Mojomama. This quirky quartet provides a thirteen-dose, one-hour course of their kind of blues medication. It’s one part rock, one part psychedelia, and one part what I call “improvisational blues.” Make no mistake: it’s not jazz or anywhere near it. However, nearly all of the thirteen original songs on this album have a freeform, nonchalant, jam-session vibe. This band is at its best during displays of instrumental showmanship. Lead singer Jessica Rogalski can hold a note longer than I can hold my tongue during Thanksgiving dinner, but her range lacks some versatility. Her fellow musicians Paul Rogalski and Bob Murnahan romp and stomp on guitar, and Colin Brown pounds his drums with panache. Tom Cleary guest stars on keyboards, and Amber Delaurentis on background vocals.

In case Mojomama hasn’t crossed your radar yet, they were a semi-finalist at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis for 2018 and 2019, representing the Colorado Blues Society. In 2015, Mojomama won Best Self-Produced CD and Favorite Female Vocalist for 2015 and 2018 from the Colorado Blues Society. They also won the Best Band award at the Colorado Blues Society Members Choice Awards in February of 2019. Jessica has earned some stage credit singing with Susan Tedeschi at the 2009 Snowy Range Music Festival and with Janiva Magness at Otis Taylor’s Trance Blues Festival 2014 Etown Hall.

Tracks three and four, “Point of View” and “Shelter From the Storm,” encapsulate this album in terms of its overall atmosphere and style. The former sounds the most like pure blues, and on the latter, Jessica bares her soul and vocal cords. There’s no question that Mojomama loves the genre and puts forth maximum effort on every song. However, on certain numbers, that effort seems rather Herculean. The best blues artists make near-impossible riffs, solos and melodies sound as easy to play as “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Here you can tell how much work they’ve put into their art – the highest form of play, as someone famous (that I can’t remember) said.

If Mojomama wants to be more widely known outside of Colorado, they’d do well to invest in more polished productions with well-seasoned studio musicians. This won’t ruin their vibe a bit. In fact, done right, it’ll enhance it. Famous and even medium-famous guest stars can help with name recognition, too. As is, they’re good – and their guitar prowess borders on excellent – but a boost from blues veterans will help them make that final push from good to great.

When it’s all done, We Are One is some solid blues-rock fun!

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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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 10 

Junior Wells – Blues Legend

Cleopatra Blues 2022

33 tracks; 88 minutes

What could there be not to like about any compilation of Junior Wells’ music?  The amazing harmonica player, (whose real name was Amos Wells Blakemore), had an incredible voice, and his talent was recognized by many of the blues greats, who often collaborated with him.  With songs like “Hoodoo Man”, “Little by Little”, and “Messin’ with the Kid,” any collection of his work would be a winner.

However, this latest release by Cleopatra Blues appears to go above and beyond, starting with the excellent sound quality.  In addition, it does an exceptional job of selecting songs that not only celebrate his work, but also acknowledge the strength of his collaboration with other musicians.  The collection includes tracks he recorded while playing with Otis Spann, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Syl Johnson, Willie Dixon and Earl Hooker.  And the bonus track is a rarely heard live recording of “What’d I Say” from 1966, which features Otis Rush on guitar.

Another bonus is the great liner notes which offer a summary of the major events in Wells’ life, (written by music critic/historian Dave Thompson) including the spectacular story of the judge who was so impressed with Wells that he dismissed his theft charge and paid the money Wells didn’t have when he stole the harmonica.  Liner notes also include a listing of all personnel on each track and writing credits.

Only two tiny flaws could be found in this collection.  One is that tracks 8 and 16 on Disc 1 are mislabeled in the liner notes.  The second is that the wonderful song, “In the Wee Hours,” was missing.  Wells’ masterful performance of that song arguably deserves a place in any collection of his work.

Despite those minor flaws, Blues Legend could be an exceptional introduction to give to those unfamiliar with his talent.  And fans of his work who already own the songs on their original albums will still likely want to purchase this superb collection.

Writer Anita Schlank lives in Virginia, and is on the Board of Directors for the River City Blues Society. She has been a fan of the blues since the 1980s. She and Tab Benoit co-authored the book “Blues Therapy,” with all proceeds from sales going to the HART Fund.


 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 10 

imaheUntil the Sun – A Night in the Rhythm Room

Self-produced; 2022

10 songs; 47 minutes

The Arizona-based band, Until the Sun, is anything but predictable.  They describe their music as fusing “elements of blues, alternative rock, Pink-Floydesque Psychedelia, and Jazz,” and that fusion is apparent in the first two tracks of their latest release, A Night in the Rhythm Room.  Brandon Teskey’s skillful and emotive guitar work does an excellent job of alternating between rousing rock riffs and slow, moving blues solos.

Alyssa Swartz’s vocals are equally flexible.  At times she can sound sweet and ethereal, such as in “The 4th Turning”.  But her effortless, yet incredibly powerful vocals adopt a wonderful sultry rasp in many other songs.  There are few singers who can meet the challenge presented by covering Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” (especially after Beth Hart offered such a memorable interpretation of it) or attempt to cover “At Last”.  However, Swartz is one of the few who can meet those high-set bars.

The group is rounded out with Glenn Peacock on bass and Chris Tex on drums, and the album is a recording of one of their live performances at the Rhythm Room, where you can feel their energy likely filling the entire venue.

They selected seven interesting and varied originals for inclusion on this album, and the strength of their originals can perhaps be best seen in the fourth track, “Death in Disguise”.  During this song, it appears a past love is being confronted about his/her callous behavior.  “She ought to know how alone she was…she was paralyzed by your disguise…hearts don’t lie, but you’ll take it back, put it in your sack, and move on to your next attack…you’ll take what you can, and you’ll lie.  You’re death in disguise.”

Blues purists may not appreciate the fusion of genres evident in many of the songs, but the only real flaw of this album seems to be the lack of writing credits and information about the band on the cover.  Therefore, most will find A Night in the Rhythm Room thoroughly enjoyable.  And for many who were not previously familiar with the band, Until the Sun just might become a favorite “new find”.

Writer Anita Schlank lives in Virginia, and is on the Board of Directors for the River City Blues Society. She has been a fan of the blues since the 1980s. She and Tab Benoit co-authored the book “Blues Therapy,” with all proceeds from sales going to the HART Fund.


 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 10 

imageMick Kolassa – They Call Me Uncle Mick!

Endless Blues Records MK08 2022

11 songs – 39 minutes

One of the busiest artists on the blues scene today, Memphis-based Mick Kolassa poured on the heat with the electrified I’m Just Getting Started last summer but returns to his acoustic roots in style with this follow-up, mixing six clever originals with five covers culled from other fields.

A Michigan native who’s released about a dozen CDs since walking away from his day job a decade ago, Kolassa’s definitely deserving of the Uncle Mick reference he uses in the title. Despite the seeming frown displayed on the cover, there’s plenty to smile about thanks to his warm voice, friendly delivery and skill as picker on the six-string.

Three of the biggest names in the industry – Bobby Rush, Doug MacLeod and Watermelon Slim – all make guest appearances here in a set captured by Pete Matthews and Toby Vest at High Low Recording in Memphis. Gospel and blues giant Dexter Allen provided extra help in the studio, and – as usual – Mick called on blues-rock powerhouse Jeff Jensen to serve as his co-producer.

Delivering what he terms “free-range blues,” Kolassa’s backed throughout by Jensen on guitar and percussion, Rick Steff on piano, Tom Leonardo on drums and Carl Caspersen on bass. Rush, Slim and Eric Hughes all contribute harmonica, Chris Gill and Brad Webb sit in on six-string and Alice Hasan (violin) and John Whittemore (vibraphone) lend a hand, too.

All of Mick’s originals are clever, down-to-earth and frequently humorous, and they dovetail perfectly with a cross-section of tunes that span the 20th century, beginning with a rendition of Bo Carter’s “My Pencil Won’t Write No More.” There’s a twinkle in his eye and a smile in his voice throughout the hokum classic. His work on the strings is sprightly, and Hughes’ mid-tune solo shines. Eric yields to Bobby on the reeds for the previously released original, “Wasted Youth,” which follows. An unhurried shuffle, it continues the theme of the opener as it states: “Why they gotta waste youth on the young?/They don’t know how good they got it, man, ‘til it’s already gone.”

John Prine’s country-folk pleaser, “Daddy’s Little Pumpkin,” takes on another dimension thanks to a reinterpretation as a percussive blues before MacLeod lays down tasty licks on “Used to Be,” a complaint about the current state of the post office, radio, reimagined restaurant menus and more. Up next, a cover of Hank Williams’ chart-topper, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” is head-and-shoulders the most interesting song yet, stripping away the classic country feel and replacing it with a bluesy, gypsy feel enhanced by Hasan’s exceptional work on fiddle.

MacLeod’s back on board for “My Woman She’s So Mean,” which describes a lady who’s highly troubling and evil, too. It precedes an uptempo take on Joni Mitchell’s paeon to “Woodstock” on which Kolassa shares the mic with Watermelon Slim who also adds a taste of Louisiana saxophone and “Why?” – and original complaint about a woman who bad-mouths others and seems able to love herself and no one else.

Things brighten instantly for a take of “(On the) Sunny Side of the Street,” the Broadway hit penned by Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh in 1930. Two more originals — “Bless His Heart,” an uptempo tribute to a late friend Bubba, which features Steff, and “The Cheese Song,” a send-up honoring…you guessed it…cheese – bring the action to a close.

One of the most giving musicians in the blues world, Mick’s a former member of the board of the Blues Foundation and – as he’s done frequently in the past – he’s donating all of the net proceeds to two of its charities: the HART Fund, which provides support for musicians dealing with financial and/or health problems, and Generation Blues, a program that supports youngsters who’ll continue the music for future generations. Do yourself a favor by picking up this one. You’ll be doing a good deed, 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.

 Featured Blues Review – 9 of 10 

imageCaboose – Awake Go Zero

BLOOS Records

9 songs – 38 minutes

A duo composed of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Luigi DeCicco and drummer Carlo Conte, Caboose are an avant-garde band who based in Benevento, Italy. Despite their seeming far-off locale, however, they put an interesting new spin on traditional Hill Country blues, infusing it with elements drawn from other styles as they take it in a direction it’s never gone before.

The group was founded as a trio in 2018 by DeCicco, who’s a triple threat on guitar, banjo and keys. Discovered by music journalist Gianluca Diana shortly after the release of a self-titled EP. With Marco Coviello on drums and Biagio Daniele on harmonica, they quickly earned airplay on major radio stations across the country and went on to represent Italy in the International Bles Challenge, making it to the semi-finals in Memphis.

The traditional sound they delivered served Caboose well during a tour of Mississippi and Louisiana, when they opened for Robert Kimbrough Jr., Watermelon Slim and Eric Bibb. They subsequently recorded the CD, Hinterland Blues. But DeCicco started teaming in a duo format with Conte because of his jazzy attack on the kit and his own desire to add more experimental sounds to the mix – a change that resulted in successful tours to Germany and inking a contract with BLOOS Records — the Roman label that represents Chicago bluesman Breezy Rodio and acoustic master Corey Harris in Europe – for this effort.

Despite the change, which includes elements of jazz, soul and psych rock, Caboose continues to deliver deep-in-the-pocket, modal sounds that carry forward the feel of north Mississippi and its original home in West Africa. And virtually all of the lyrics in this all-original set are centered on the figure of a nomadic stranger. They’re assisted only by Coviello, whose only appearance is the opening cut, and William Fusco, who provides bass on track four.

A couple of discordant accents on guitar open “Do What the Witch Says” before DeCicco kicks things into high gear, sings in accented English and urges listeners not to resist the enchantress if you want to get along. He delivers almost all of the opening verse before the drums kick in high in the mix. The drone produced will have you rocking from the jump. The pace slows somewhat and brightens slightly for “Fortune.” Built atop a stinging six-string hook and heavy beat, it’s a strong statement that references ownership of a car but truly speaks about the role skin color plays in determining success in America.

The sound adopts almost a reggae feel for “I Want Her Back,” the longing driven home by the rock-steady beat, before the pace changes with the ballad “Home.” Revisiting the theme of the opener, the singer claims he’s been cursed by folks who don’t seem to care from the moment he started on his journey despite playing by all the rules. The tension rises for a brief moment mid-tune before resignation sets in with the realization that he’ll be alone on his trip back home.

Borrowing from a song by R.L. Burnside, the driving “Poor Boy” picks up power as it progresses while continuing the feeling of the traveler’s isolation before things quiet again for the opening of “Viva Hobos,” which is delivered from the position of someone ready to hit the road in order to get away from his lady despite realizing she’ll away be on his mind – possibly for the desires she expresses in “Tongue,” which follows. The feel and tension continue in “Without You” and “Streets I Walk On” to close.

If you’re a fan of Hill Country, you’ll find this one haunting and hypnotic throughout — and definitely worth a listen.

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 – 10 of 10 

imageJoey J. Saye – World of Trouble

Self-Produced –  2021

Five Tracks; 17 minutes

The son of Liberian immigrants (from the Mano tribe), Joey J. Saye grew up in the African church and was exposed to many varied types of music.  But, being born near Chicago, the blues seems to have been his strongest influence.  He has performed around Chicago as a solo act, in a duo with the extremely talented Rodrigo Mantovani, and with a full band.  At 29 years of age, he has already earned himself a residency, (playing at Rosa’s Lounge every Thursday night), and in 2021, he was chosen as a “Make a Wave” Artist.

Saye recently released an EP, performing as a solo artist, in World of Trouble, which contains three original songs. It can sometimes be difficult to hold an audience’s attention as a solo artist playing acoustic guitar, but Saye rises to meet that challenge.  He has a very full sound to his guitar-playing, which makes you feel as if he is right there in the room with you.  And he occasionally throws in some intriguing, tension-producing, and dissonant sounds, such as in his interpretation of Kid Bailey’s “Rowdy Blues”.  However, he wisely resolves that tension by ending with the uplifting sound and classic blues structure of his original song, “Pennies from Heaven”. In that self-reflective song he notes “I’ve got to make some changes before life changes me, look in the mirror…is the stranger who you want to see?”

His other cover is Melvin ‘lil son’ Jackson’s “Milford Blues”.   One small flaw of this EP is that the lyrics can occasionally be a bit repetitive.  For example, “aint no need to cry, you’ve got a home as long as I’ve got mine” is included in two consecutive songs.  However, overall, this release is a great introduction to Saye’s music, and is likely to leave fans hoping for more from this clearly talented artist.

Writer Anita Schlank lives in Virginia, and is on the Board of Directors for the River City Blues Society. She has been a fan of the blues since the 1980s. She and Tab Benoit co-authored the book “Blues Therapy,” with all proceeds from sales going to the HART Fund.

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