Issue 16-5 February 3, 2022

Cover photo © 2022 Marilyn Stringer

 In This Issue 

Mark Thompson has our feature interview with Jimmy Carpenter. We have twelve Blues reviews for you this week including a historical release of various artists from Jasmine Records celebrating Money plus new music from Val Starr & The Blues Rocket, John Mayall, Reddog and Friends, Hanna PK, Zac Harmon, JS Blues, Robert Night Hawk, Memphissippi Sounds, Willy Bo Walker, Alberto Visentin and Vittorio Pitzalis. Scroll down and check it out!


 Featured Interview – Jimmy Carpenter 

imageIt is a safe bet that most blues fans have heard and/or seen Jimmy Carpenter blowing his saxophone over the course of the last four decades. After playing sideman to some of the finest musicians in the blues and New Orleans musical communities, Carpenter has finally stepped out into the spotlight on his own with a killer band helping him tear it up on his memorable original songs. But this was definitely not a case of overnight success.

“My father had big band records, which I loved as a kid. But he also had Dave Brubeck records which featured Paul Desmond on alto saxophone. That was the sound that caught me as a kid. The other thing that was happening at the same time was that Boots Randolph had a network television show, which shows you how different things are today. He would start every show playing “Yakety Sax.” He’d play a little bit, then these two go-go dancers would come out, one on each side of him. I thought that was the most amazing thing I had ever seen!

“After fourth grade, I got invited to this summer school program, where they had metal or wood shop. But my Mother told me that I could also learn to play an instrument. Was that of interest? She says that I looked at her and immediately said that I wanted to play saxophone. That is how I got completely enamored with it from the start, and have stayed enamored with it to this day. Excluding a couple of detours, that is all I have done since then.”

The school system in Greensboro, North Carolina offered quality music programs in those days, so the budding musician was able to get a solid education in the crucial opening phase of his career.

“I played in the school band from the 5th grade on. Starting in junior high school, I had a great saxophone teacher, Charles Murth, who was a wonderful band director. Every week we had what they called the “steps”. We had to go in this room with the other sax players. Each of us had to play our assigned piece, an exercise or scales. How well you played determined your position in the line-up, which was at risk every week. I was absolutely determined to stay first chair. There was another player, Tom Barker, who probably hates me to this day. We battled it out every week, and I never lost it.

“When I got into high school, there were some distractions. I decided that I wanted to be a guitar player. I did that for a minute, but when I started looking at going to a music school for college, I knew that there was no way I could get in playing guitar. So I got the sax out, practiced, auditioned, and got in. Honestly, I had an inauspicious career at music school. At the end of the year, the head of the Music Department sat me down, saying, “Jimmy, I think you should do one of two things. Either go to a school that will teach you what you want to know, like Berklee College of Music, or start playing live gigs. I decided he was right, so for better or worse, I went out and started playing gigs.”

While at music school in Greensboro, Carpenter gravitated to Tate Street, which was the heart of the city’s hippie community, where all of the cool people hung out.

“That was quite the scene. I found myself playing in a lot of different things, both in and out of school. At that point, I hadn’t been paying much attention to blues music because I wanted to be John Coltrane. One of the first things that got me was Otis Redding, some of the most amazing stuff I had heard. I began working backwards from there. Around 1979, I was playing in the Little Alfred Band, a big mess of guys from that scene, including Scott Sawyer, who is still active, a heavy guy that is more of a jazz guitar player. Through that band, I got turned on to a lot of stuff like Little Walter’s “Too Late” that got me deeper into the blues side of things.”

imageAnother part of the band experience provided some hard-earned lessons that would come in handy as the years went on, a valuable tutorial on surviving the dynamics of a working band.

“The Little Alfred Band taught me that people have different ideas about where things should go. Me and the harmonica player got all excited about the band at one point, had a bunch of promotional material printed up. When we took it to the rest of the band, the other guitar player promptly quit. That was my first lesson that bands are not easy to run.”

The next phase of his career was spent with the Alka-Phonics, described on Carpenter’s website as “a renegade blues band”. Formed with a number of his friends, the band came together after a trip to Elon, NC to see guitarist Tinsley Ellis, giving the musicians the proper inspiration, and starting a life-long friendship between Ellis and Carpenter. The band gave the saxophonist his first taste of life on the road, touring along the East Coast from Washington D.C and Philadelphia, down to Florida.

“We were just wild, and certainly not a pure blues band, For a long time we did a James Brown medley, and had a raggedy medley of Motown tunes. That ended once the movie The Big Chill came out. Then every lounge band in America was doing Motown, so that wasn’t cool any more. Once I heard a band in a Holiday Inn lounge doing a similar set, we stopped doing Motown. Johnny Sansone was in the band for a minute. We had several guitar players. The last one, Terry Garland, passed away last year.

“I was working as an exterminator in 1980. It was a shitty job, but as long as I got the work done, the owner let me do what I wanted. The owner was a jazz drummer, so he understood what was going on. I was making minimum wage, about $110 a week. As soon as I was sure that I could make that much playing music, I quit that job. That was pretty much the last W-2 form I ever had until I started working with the Big Blues Bender. It has been a good run, although at times I was hanging on by my fingernails.”

The group recorded several demo records that never lead to anything. The cost of recording in those days was prohibitive. After a solid eight year run, the decision was made in 1987 to end the Alka-Phonics. Carpenter found himself adrift for a spell until a guitar player friend got in touch with him.

He ended up joining The Believers, a blues-rock band based out of Charlottesville, Virginia for another eight year stint. Lead by his friend Charlie Pastorfield, the band did several recordings, including one in Nashville.

“That one was called I’m Your Prisoner. Garry Tallent, the bass player from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band was the producer. It was all original material except for one Flamin’ Groovies song. It’s a challenging thing to make a record. It was Charlie’s band, but at that point I was handling the business aspects. I knew there would be challenges, and I knew that I would have to be the “no” guy. I didn’t want to be in that position, so that is why we hired Garry to help us out.”

Around 1996, grunge music was sweeping the country, and the Believers weren’t cool any more. It got tougher and tougher to find good paying gigs that would keep things afloat. Once a self-sustaining enterprise, the band started losing money. Not wanting to go backwards, the saxophonist made the decision to leave the band to make a change, deciding to use his experience to become a booking agent.

“It was an OK run. After about a year and a half, things were starting to work out. That is a cutthroat business, especially in the D.C. Area where I was living at the time. I was sitting in my office one day when I got a call from my friend, Tinsley Ellis. He wanted to go out on the road for a year with a four piece band that would include a saxophonist. He knew I was doing the booking thing, but still wanted to call me first even though he figured I wouldn’t be interested. I took a couple of days to consider it, but I had decided almost immediately to do it. So I closed the agency in 1998 and went back on the road. It was a great tour and education that set me on the path I have been on since then.”

imageWith time on his hands after finishing that year-long commitment, Carpenter got a call from yet another guitarist, Jimmy Thackery, who wondered if Carpenter wanted to do a few shows together. They did a short ten day run that worked really well. At the end, Thackery extended an offer to continue on in his band, which was quickly accepted, making Carpenter an official member of Thackery’s band, the Drivers.

“That lasted six years and I appeared on several recordings. We did a European tour right before 9-11, which was my first time overseas, so that was awesome. We played in Paris, all over France, and then in Italy. I am really thankful for that stretch with Jimmy. I got to play a ton of shows. By default, I became the road manager, keeping the books and handling the merchandise. While I don’t consider myself a business man, I like to know what is going on. Sometimes it is easier just to do it than rely on somebody else, so that scratched that itch for me. Another educational endeavor!”

In 2003, life in the D.C. Area was getting tense, so Carpenter decided to fulfill a dream by moving to New Orleans. While New Orleans had a thriving music scene, Carpenter was constantly on the road with Thackery, making it difficult to make inroads in what was now his home area. That lead to the decision to dedicate himself to breaking into the New Orleans scene. he left Thackery’s band. It took some doing, but by 2005, his schedule was finally starting to fill up for several months at a time. He was also taking advantage of several opportunities to sit in with guitarist Walter “Wolfman” Washington, a New Orleans music legend.

“I was hanging out with Walter, circling around his gigs trying to get noticed, just being a nuisance. That August, I was on a festival in Maryland with Chubby Carrier. Walter was also on the fest. I sat in with him, and afterwards he came up and asked me if I wanted to do his travel dates. Walter had a killer tenor sax player, Eric Traub, who did not like to travel. I told Walter I absolutely wanted to work with him. For ten years, I did pretty much every Walter show.

“That fest was August 20th, 2005. Hurricane Katrina hit August 29th, wiping out all of the shows I had booked. There was nothing good about Katrina. I went back to New Orleans right after the power came back. A lot of people didn’t go back, so by attrition I sort of moved up the ladder. The gig with Walter certainly gave me some street cred I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Walter is an amazing guy – guitarist, singer, and songwriter.”

As time went on, Carpenter found himself playing with Eric Lindell, and some of the Mardi Gras Indians, a tradition unique to New Orleans. He also did horn arrangements for several Honey Island Swamp band recordings while finding time to also play with Billy Iuso’s band. He could usually be seen hustling from one stage to the next throughout the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage festival.

“As far as my education, the New Orleans period was the deepest. I was in over my head so much of the time. It was frightening, interesting, and encouraging. There is nothing like playing on stage with a bunch of people that are way better than you, kicking your ass. It’s a beautiful thing. Over the years I played on a lot of Indian projects with Big Chief Monk Boudreaux. That stuff is so much fun. It is deep and trance-like. I usually played baritone sax on those gigs. The music is a one chord groove. I would just find the lick and beat it to death.

“If I had to pick one person who was the most influential on me, it’s got to be Walter, except for Charles Murth in the beginning. Walter is the consummate band leader. It is hard to describe the way he plays – it is totally unique, rhythmic, and funky. He will take a right or left turn at the drop of a hat. I learned early on to watch, read, listen, so I could anticipate where things were going to go. It was a real education.”

In 2008, Carpenter released his first recording under his own name. Entitled Toiling In Obscurity, a title that offered a sly summation of his career up to that point, the recording was actually a by-product of the aftermath of Katrina. It featured a fine line-up of New Orleans musicians bringing to life Carpenter’s original songs and strong arrangements.

image“Before Katrina, my then-partner and I had bought a house. Later the Small Business Association wanted to lend me a bunch of money against my house. They kept calling to the point of hounding me. But I didn’t want to do it. Finally, they offered me $10,000, unsecured at a super low rate for thirty years. I quickly figured out the payments would be about $45 a month. It seemed like things would never be so bad that I couldn’t make a $45 dollar a month payment. I took the loan but my partner & I couldn’t decide what to do with the funds, so I decided to make a record. I had been keeping notes about who I liked playing with around town. Most of those players also were on my next release, Walk Away, a few years later.”

Moving to the next phase of his career, Carpenter began working with Mike Zito, who he had met at Buddy Guy’s Legends club when Zito opened for Thackery. Zito wanted to start doing a guitar & saxophone band line-up. So Carpenter would do dates with Zito as his schedule permitted. Finally, Zito put together a new band called The Wheel, featuring Scot Sutherland on bass, Lewis Stephens on keyboards, and Rob Lee on drums. The band was a huge hit.

“First of all, Mike is the hardest working person I have ever met, except for my partner Carrie Stowers. In the music business, Mike is hard to beat as far as making shit happen. His thing started to roll, so he was hiring me for more and more dates. When he finally put the Wheel together, we toured the world, cut a few records, and had a great time. It is a friendship that started almost 20 years ago. I played gigs, then was in a band with him, and now I am on his record label, Gulf Coast Records. It is cool how things have developed over the years.”

In 2013, Zito and the Wheel were booked on the Sin City Soul & Blues Revival, a festival in Las Vegas. For Carpenter, it ended up being far more than just another gig. And this time, it wasn’t another guitar player that opened the door to a new opportunity.

“As usual, I was running around sitting in with different people. A guy involved with the festival, AJ Gross, noticed that I was jumping in with both feet. At one point, he stopped me to mention that he would probably be involved the following year, and maybe I could be there all weekend. I said that would be great. As it turned out, AJ became the founder of what became the Big Blues Bender, a three day festival. He booked Walter for the fest the next year.

“I was therein 2014, hanging out, doing horn stuff with Deanna Bogart. Then I met this woman at a merchandise booth. I ended up chasing her around all weekend. I eventually wore her down, one thing lead to another, and Carrie and I have been together ever since. I split time between New Orleans and Vegas for a year. Then I said we either need to quit or I need to move to Vegas.

“So I made the move to Vegas, where my role with the Blues Bender has grown exponentially. It has become a very, very good thing. It is always challenging and interesting, and the reason I can pursue my solo career instead of touring all of the time as a sideman. This allows me to scratch my business and musical itches. I am very grateful to have this going on.”

Carpenter helps book the festival, and is the event’s Musical Director, running a seven piece band that backs a number of artists. He also coordinates the annual fund raiser for the Hart Fund, sponsored by the Blues Foundation that uses the funds to help musicians with health and financial issues. Over the years, over $200,000 have been raised.

“It is a ton of work, but it really pushes my envelope. I had never written 25 horn charts for nine different artists. Now I do it all the time, so it is old hat. It goes back to something Dr. John once told me while we standing around in a recording studio. He made a comment about music. I replied that I don’t really play jazz. Dr. John goes, “Wait a minute, Jimmy Carpenter, don’t you never tell no motherfucker that you don’t know how to do nothin’! They say can you do this, you say fuck yeah, I can do it.” That’s the way it’s gone with the Bender.”

In 2017, Carpenter released Plays The Blues on the Vizztone label, with backing by Ellis and Zito among a number of  guitar wielding guests, living up to the title with a strong focus on the blues. The title track, along with several other instrumentals, provides the leader with plenty of space to spotlight his dynamic saxophone skills.

IMAGEHis initial Gulf Coast Records release, Soul Doctor, is Carpenter’s strongest release to date, featuring some of his best vocal work, plenty of brawny sax tones, and more stellar original material. The impact of the album was blunted by Covid shutdowns, although it received plenty of airplay and praise from reviewers. Some of the disappointment at the lost opportunities was offset when he was named the recipient of the 2021 Blues Music Award for Blues Instrument – Horns, the sixth time he had been nominated.

“Just to be on a list with players like Doug James, Nancy Wright, and Kaz Kazanoff is exciting enough. It’s a big world, and an honor to be on that narrowed down list. I must admit, while the other years I didn’t win I did say it is a great honor to be nominated, it is indeed much better to actually win one! I humbly submit that no one can really argue that point. Now I am trying to build on that momentum.”

In another twist of fate, a project that he was involved in a decade ago ended up being a part of a Grammy winning album in the 2021 ‘Best Regional Roots Music Album’ category.

“A trombone payer, Craig Klein, was a friend of mine in New Orleans. We were commissioned to write a piece, a funeral dirge, for the Musicians Tomb in the city. We wrote it under the supervision of Wardell Quezergue. Most people outside of New Orleans don’t know that name. There was no heavier guy in New Orleans music than Wardell. He was known as the “Creole Beethoven,” a brilliant composer, arranger, and record producer. He also wrote the horn arrangements for many of legendary band leader Dave Bartholomew’s records, usually at $50 per song.

“We never recorded the piece, but did play it live at two internment ceremonies at the Musicians Tomb. So then Craig and his band, the New Orleans Nightcrawlers, recorded the piece, entitled “Tomb Tune,” on their 2020 release, Atmosphere. And it wins the Grammy! So I received what they call a “Participation Grammy”. It’s not the statue, but a certificate recognizing my contribution to the record.

“Wardell was older, and mostly blind a the time. We would take my laptop to his apartment. This guy was one of the heaviest arrangers and composers in American music history, yet he has no money, and living in an apartment in a Catholic Retirement home. He was a wonderful, sweet man. I’ll never forget one time we were listening to the piece. I was watching Wardell as his face lit up at one point, and he said, “Oh man, that is just beautiful.” That is a moment I will never forget. Like my career, it took a long time to come to fruition, but when it did, it was a beautiful thing.”

Check out Jimmy’s website for more information on this great artist:

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 12

imageVal Starr & The Blues Rocket – Healing Kind of Blues

Sandwich Factory Records

12 tracks

California blues guitarist Val Starr’s sixth album comes from her Covid layoff, a labor of love and hard work. She wrote most of the music during the pandemic and she was especially in tune with her mortality and began to realize that time had not somehow magically stopped. She created her California blues in a bunch of styles and has a heavy dose of songs whose themes revolve around her realization. More on that in a moment…

Starr is an accomplished musician who wrote all the songs and handles the vocals and rhythm guitar on the album. Husband John Ellis plays bass and slide guitar. Lead guitarist Tim Brisson, drummer Paul Farman and harp player Frankie Munz round out the band. Various guests appear here and there. Todd Morgan makes his presence known on three tracks on organ, five tracks on keys and effects and even does some steel drum sounds on two of those, too. Danny Sandoval adds his sax to a couple of cuts, Horation Socarras adds congas to a pair pf tracks, Debra Power plays piano on two and Ilana Katz Katz plays fiddle on one. Starr produced the CD entirely on her own and she and the band spent most of 2021 laying down the tracks.

As I noted, maturation is a heavy topic on this album. Tracks 6, 7, 10, and 12 relate to the process of aging. “Age is Just A Number” begins the process; Starr is happy to to be alive with all that going on, and sings about how age really is just a number and that you’re only as old and you feel inside. The harp is really well done here. OBTW, Starr tells us weight is just a number we shouldn’t have to hide, so should forget about extra pounds we carry. The slide guitar here is cool, too, and the piano support works well.

The next song continues the harp and piano support and also continues the aging theme. “Pretty Girl Blues” bemoans, “Why do all the pretty girls always get their way?” Val stands up for herself and other experienced women and says she’s got just as much to say as they do. This tune has got a country flair to it, too. “We’re Not Getting Older” is the third song of the theme. Starr tells us we’re getting better, not older. Guitar and organ work her shine in support of Starr. The final track “Get Over It” concludes the album and aging theme. Barrelhouse piano and a driving beat move this one along. Starr tells us to get over what we look like and feeling blue and don’t sweat the small stuff. Her message is to enjoy the respect you’ve earned and success you’ve achieved. There is more fun harp and guitar here to enjoy, too.

So off to the rest of the album now; “”Ridin’ That Memphis High” opens the album with a distinct country flair. Starr tells us all the good things about Memphis in this shuffle with nice harp and guitar accompaniment and solo work. The next tracks is also a shuffle, “All About The Shuffle.” The tempo slows down here as Val and the band bounce around and you could probably two-step to the shuffle. There is more guitar and keyboard work to enjoy on this one, too. The next cut, “Slow Blues Grinder” is exactly that; slow and sultry with organ and guitar accompaniment to help set the mood. The big guitar soloing helps sell this one. Luckily, the title track tells us healing is available for us via the blues. Sandoval’s sax is vibrant and adds much to the cut with his playing and solo. Starr croons sexily and the congas, vocal overdubs and a little guitar here and there give this song depth.

So despite getting older, we’re getting healed, too.

“If You Ever Change Your Mind” is a country shuffle of sorts with piano and guitar setting that up. The sax brings us back more to the blues here, but the styles swap back and forth a bit. Another nice, slow blues is “Don’t Love ’Em” with a ringing guitar solo. “Outside Looking In” is a rocking number with some heavier guitar licks as Starr sings with emotion. “Blues Family” is a bouncy cut with some fiddle; percussion and steel drum effects to make it interesting in a Caribbean sort of way.

Starr’s self proclaimed California blues are intended to uplift and be enjoyed and they certainly are and can be. This is a fun album and Starr and company have done a fine job putting it together and delivering the goods.

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 – 2 of 12 

imageJohn Mayall – The Sun Is Shining Down

Forty Below Records

10 tracks

Over half a century has passed since John Mayall became an iconic figure in early British rock that emerged from the blues. He became a household name with his Blues Breakers band, featuring artists like Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Harvey Mandell, Rick Vito, Coco Montoya, Walter Trout, Rocky Athas, and now Carolyn Wonderland, and these were just some of his guitar players. Born in 1933, he doesn’t tour anymore but he still can write, perform and turn out fantastic music.

His band here is his great backline of Greg Rzab on bass and Jay Davenport on drums along with Texas guitar slinger Carolyn Wonderland on rhythm and lead guitar. Mayall handles the vocals, harp and all the keyboard instruments. Guest artists Mike Campbell (Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers), roots rocker Marcus King, Buddy Miller (an Americana icon), Scarlett Rivera of Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue, Chicago guitarist Melvin Taylor and Jake Shimabukuro (Hawaiian ukulele). Other guest artists include Ron Dziubla on sax, Mark Pender on trumpet, Richard A. Rosenberg on trombone, and Eric Corne and Billy Watts adding rhythm guitar on a total of three tracks between them. Recorded at Robby Krieger’s Horse Latitude Studio, this is his fifth studio album with Forty Below Records, a partnership since 2014.

Stinging guitar by Melvin Taylor and a big production open the album on “Hungry and Ready.” Horns blare and the band moves things along smartly as Mayall sings like a younger man. Taylor excels here and Mayall still can make his harp sound great. Marcus King guests on “Can’t Take No More” and wails on his guitar in this uptempo piece. The band is ready in support and does another great job as Mayall again nails the vocals. The Bobby Rush tune “I’m As Good As Gone” gets Mayall’s take on it as he sings about leaving his woman. Here we get to hear some good Buddy Miller on his guitar laying out some deep and heavy licks. Scarlet Rivera appears on the original track “Got To Find A Better Way.” Her fiddle is sublime in this jazzy and slick number that is quite cool. Mike Campbell graces the Bernard Allison cover of “Chills and Thrills.” Things are funky and rocking here and it’s another fun ride through the music. The organ and guitar work are really nice.

“One Special Lady” begins the second half of the album and Jake Shimabukuro joins the fray and trades his uke for an electric guitar on this bouncing cut with more great vocals, guitar and organ. Tinsley Ellis’ “Quitter Never Wins” gets a fine cover with some cool harp by Mayall to appreciate. Mayall give it his all on vocals and does another fine job. Mayall’s own “Deep Blue Sea” is next and Rivera returns with more super fiddle to add to the mix. A midtempo number that opens with her on the fiddle and then John comes in to front the band smartly and offer some interesting piano, too. Melvin Taylor returns with more wicked guitar on Roosevelt Sykes’ “Driving Wheel” as Mayall and company gives us some great Chicago blues to savor. Taylor is expressive as hs runs up and down the fretboard on this one. Carolyn Wonderland finally gets her time for some solos in “The Sun Is Shining Down.” She really nails it in this, the final and title track of the album. As Mayall’s latest Blues Breaker and exceptional solo artist, Wonderland is quite the asset to the song and album. Mayall gives another well done performance in this final original piece.

Mayall will be 89 this year and it’s amazing that he is still in his musical prime. Half of the songs are his originals and all the songs are outstanding. It amazes me that Mayall still brings the thunder to his music, delivering another fine album for his fans and the world to enjoy. He keeps delivering exemplary albums to us that we need to add to our collections. Well done!

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 12 

imageReddog and Friends – Booze, Blues and Southern Grooves

Survival South Records

11 songs – 49 minutes

Once one of the favorite performers in Underground Atlanta, Reddog is a honey-voiced vocalist and stylish guitarist who delivers a treat with his latest album, teaming with some of the biggest names from the Muscle Shoals music scene to deliver a tasty, relaxed mix of Southern soul, blues, rock and roots.

Influenced by Albert Collins, Freddie King, Duane Allman and Otis Rush, Reddog – aka JK Higgins — held court on Monday nights at Blues Harbor during the ‘70s and ‘80s, fronting an ensemble that regularly included musicians who recorded with Capricorn Records and were major players in the Macon and Hotlanta music scenes.

He’s been releasing albums since his self-titled debut CD in 1986 and has based out of Pensacola, Fla., for the past 25 years or so, where he represented the Blues Society of Western Florida in the 2010 International Blues Challenge and from which he’s regularly toured the Southeast. And Guitar World magazine once included him in as one of its “50 Bluesmen That Matter.”

This CD came about after Reddog received an invitation from the late Alabama Music Hall of Famer Johnny Sandlin – who mixed or produced the Allman Brothers’ Eat a Peach, Brothers and Sisters and Win, Lose or Draw albums — to record at his Duck Tape Studio in Decatur and handle the engineering. Sandlin passed away with three tunes in the can, but Reddog didn’t have to go far. The rest of this disc was captured 45 miles away at East Avalon Recorders in Muscle Shoals under the supervision Charles Holloman and John Gifford III.

Reddog’s backing unit includes world-class session players Clayton Ivey on keys and David Hood on bass, both of whom have been hitmakers since the ‘60s. Bill Stewart (Gregg Allman, Bonnie Bramlett) and Justin Holder (Albert Cummings, Lisa Mills) handle percussion, and backing vocals are provided by Carla Russell (Clarence Carter, Gregg Allman), Mary Mason and former Nashville Star – the country version of American Idol — winner Angela Hacker.

A simple six-string intro opens “Love, You’ve Got to Spread the Word.” It’s an unhurried, unforced shuffle driven forward by a tasty hook as it stresses the importance of adoring and protecting your children. The action heats up slightly for “The Blues Will Get You Everytime” powered by a driving rhythm before the guitar-driven ballad “Down, Down, Down” continues Reddog’s descent.

The mood brightens, the beat gets funky and Reddog plays slide for “She’s a Georgia Peach” before things slow down again with “Simple Song,” a sweet ballad described as “lullaby for my lady.” Built on the vocal hook of the title, “Searching for Some Soul” kicks off with a little slide then shifts into a medium-fast shuffle as Reddog goes hunting for some blues and honkytonk piano across Alabama.

The band downshifts again and the backup singers are featured in “Why Oh Why Are You Calling Me,” which describes an ex-lover who’s blowing up his phone and looking for support after her ten-year marriage has gone belly-up. But the mood brightens dramatically from the opening notes of “Don’t Muscle That Shuffle,” a beefy, rock-steady instrumental on which Reddog shines. It flows into the well-modulated, stop-time pleaser “Old School Blues,” an autobiographical number than lists several giants of the genre and delivers some tasty licks, too. Two more cuts – the Southern rocker “Back in the Bottle Again” and unhurried “Honest Man,” which conveys a little knowledge about life handed down by the singer’s mother – bring the album to a successful close.

If you’re a fan of original, blue-eyed soul with straightforward, easy-to-understand messages, you’ll love this one.

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 – 4 of 12 

imageHanna PK – Blues All Over My Shoes

VizzTone Label Group / Booga Music

11 tracks

South Korean born Hanna PK now lives in Rochester, NY and was a semi-finalist in the 2019 International Blues Challenge representing Western NY. This is her third album and first with the folks at VizzTone. Hanna is a fine musician and vocalist whose is steeped in the tradition of the blues. Her music evokes the past yet she puts a fresh and cool spin on her songs.

Hanna handles all the vocals and piano. Kenny Neal produced the album and plays harp and bass on the first track and guitar on that and two others. Lil Mike Harris handles the drums on the first nine tracks. Miguel Hernandez plays bass on all but the first and last two tracks. Brandon Adams adds organ to four tracks and Paul Emden adds brushes on the final cut.

The first track is “Mirror Mirror,” a nice, midtempo blues with slick piano and husky vocals. It’s a great hook to start things off. The boogie “Bad Women” gets things moving and features some sultry vocals by Hanna. “Insomnia Blues” is a sweet, slow blues that Hanna handles quite well. The only cover on the album is Memphis Slim’s “I’m Lost Without You,” an upbeat and bouncy song that shows her ability to take a cover and make it hers. :Love Keeps Walking In” is next and it’s a very pretty ballad with good piano work and a bit of organ added for depth. “It’s All Right Baby” returns things to an upbeat side with a bouncy jump blues. Hanna’s piano is really a standout on this one.

“No One Will Ever Know” follpows, a slower tune that is pretty much also a ballad. The organ is there for good effect to back her. “Ain’t Gonna Be Looking Back No More” is a grooving and fun cut that moves along sweetly. The slow blues of “It’s Been Raining In My Heart” is next, a deep and almost gritty cut with Hanna again showing her chops. “Bad Habit” is solo piano and voice and Hanna does a super job on her own with this one. The final track features Hanna going up and down the keyboards and back again in this slick boogie woogie with tons of great piano licks. Well done and a super finish to a super album!

I was very pleased with this album. Hanna PK is the real deal. She can boogie with the best of them and she can maneuver stylistically through any tempo or format of a song. Her original cuts are outstanding and I think she has the makings of an excellent musician and performer who we will be happy to hear more and more of!

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 – 5 of 12 

imageVarious Artists – Where’s The Money, Honey? A Compendium Of Blues Songs Celebrating Money Or The Lack Of

Jasmine Records – 2021

30 tracks; 79.49 minutes

This collection brings together a wealth of material, some familiar, some obscure, around the common theme of money, all recorded between 1947 and 1957. The set is annotated by the late Bob Fisher and compiled by Neil Slaven, both well-known blues writers. The disc is chronological, apart from the first track, Eddie Mack’s “Mercenary Papa” which comes from 1949, thereafter everything runs sequentially.

There is pretty much the full range of blues styles of the period represented, from the full band behind Eddie Mack’s opener, led by former Ellington trumpeter Cootie Williams, to John Lee Hooker’s distinctive solo performance of “House Rent Boogie”. From the West Coast we hear Ivory Joe Hunter backed by trumpet and saxes on “High Cost, Low Pay Blues”, a recurring theme that we also hear on Charles ‘Chuck’ Norris’ “Money’s Gettin’ Cheaper”, probably best known from Jimmy Witherspoon’s version.

Eddie Vinson is another one outraged and bemoans having to pay taxes on “Luxury Tax Blues”. Amos Milburn’s piano is well up in the mix on “Money Hustlin’ Woman”, a relaxed style but another theme that recurs in this collection, the woman who is spending all the guy’s hard-earned money: check out Joe Hill Louis’ “She’s Taking All My Money” or Big Charley Bradix’s “Dollar Diggin’ Woman” as further examples.

Familiar names include Brownie McGhee, accompanied by some great piano work by Champion Jack Dupree, on a New York 1947 recording of “Dollar Bill”, and Roy Milton, who advises us all to “Keep A Dollar In Your Pocket”. Chicago sessions include Muddy Waters on guitar and vocal accompanied just by Big Crawford’s bass on “Train Fare Home” and Tampa Red with a full band on “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is”. Sunnyland Slim appears on his own “Bad Times” as well as in JB Lenoir’s ‘Bayou Boys’ on “Deep In Debt Blues” and Jimmy Rogers & His Rocking Four give us a classic 50’s Chicago cut, “Money, Marbles And Chalk”.

Little Richard offers tips on how to “Get Rich Quick”, a terrific, sax-driven, full band track laid down in Atlanta in 1951, one of the finds of the CD for this reviewer. In contrast the Rosco Gordon track “Three Cent Love” suffers from generally distorted sound and some painfully discordant guitar work. Howling Wolf makes two appearances towards the end of the set, both recorded in Memphis in 1953: “Work For Your Money” was issued on a Chess LP but the rollicking “Hold Onto Your Money” remained un-issued, possibly because of a short drum feature.

Among the less well-known names are the full-voiced King Perry (and His Pied Pipers) and Chubby Newsome whose “Where’s The Money, Honey” provides the title to the collection. Vivian Verson shares vocals with Jimmy Smith, backed by The Red Calhoun Orchestra, on “Payday Lover” and Varetta Dillard sounds excellent on “Send Me Some Money”, as does Mickey Baker on guitar here. George Green’s “Finance Man” has a similar stop-start style to Willie Mabon’s “I Don’t Know”, memorably covered later on by The Blues Brothers. The last two tracks are clearly influenced by Rock and Roll, a 1956 “Leave My Money Alone” by Cornelius ‘Lonesome Sundown’ Green and Little Willie Littlefield’s “I Need A Pay Day” from 1957.

Overall an interesting selection of tracks set round a theme that is as relevant today as it was in the immediate postwar period.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 12 

imageZac Harmon – Long as I Got My Guitar

Catfood Records CFR-031

10 songs – 41 minutes

One of the most versatile artists in the blues, Zac Harmon cut new ground on his previous release, Mississippi BarBQ, a tasty serving of horn-fueled, contemporary music, but returns full force to his stripped-down roots on this one, an all-original set that – like the last one – is produced by Grammy winner Jim Gaines, but takes listeners home to his roots: the deeply soulful sounds created along Farish Street in Jackson, Miss.

An exceptionally stylish vocalist and guitarist who burst onto the scene in 2006 by capturing top honors in the Blues Music Awards for The Blues According to Zachariah, which took home the trophy for best new artist debut album of the year, Zac’s also a former International Blues Challenge winner, and he served for a time on the board of the Blues Foundation, too.

The son of a harmonica-playing pharmacist and keyboard playing mom, his next-door neighbor was a prominent music instructor who welcomed Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway and others into his home. Steeped in the music throughout his childhood, Harmon turned pro at age 16, joining the roster of a band fronted by harp player/family friend Sam Myers.

Stints in support of Z.Z. Hill, Dorothy Moore and other favorites followed before he relocated to Los Angeles at 21, where he established himself in the ‘70s and ‘80s as a musician by working in film, TV and commercials as a songwriter whose material were recorded by Evelyn “Champagne” King, The O’Jays, Freddie Jackson and others. His tune, “One Love,” was one of the biggest hits off the reggae group Black Uhuru’s Grammy-nominated Mystical Truth CD.

His return to the sounds of his childhood came in the early 2000s, when he composed and performed blues tunes for a movie, released the album Live at Babe & Ricky’s Inn in 2003 and won the IBCs a year later. This is the eighth CD in Harmon’s career, and like the last one, it was recorded at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas.

The Rays — Catfood Records’ top-notch studio band (label owner Bob Trenchard on bass with Richy Puga on drum, Johnny McGhee on guitar and Dan Ferguson on keyboards) provide backing on nine of the ten cuts with Zac’s regular road band (Corey Lacy on keys, Chris Gipson on bass and Jamil Byron on drums) sitting in on the other. They’re augmented by SueAnn Carwell and Lacy on backing vocals and a special guest appearance by Munyungo Jackson on half the tracks.

Harmon and Trenchard co-wrote eight of the songs, which are augmented by a pair penned by Memphis-based tunesmith Sandy Carroll. And all of the material on this one is silky smooth and slightly behind the beat throughout.

The slick “Deal with the Devil” opens the action with a brief single-note guitar intro atop a funky, syncopated beat before Zac launches into a warning that you’d better be careful what you wish for because “hell’s fire is burning bright” and “there’s no way to go home again.” A stinging, extended mid-tune solo drives the message home. The six-string bite continues in the unhurried “People Been Talking,” which confronts a lover about rumors that she’s cheating with a man who’s just 20 years old. The tune concludes with multiple repetitions of the words of the title, which drives the message home.

The timbre warms slightly but the pace remains the same for “Crying Shame,” a two-step ballad with deep Gulf Coast feel that bemoans being responsible for unspoken actions that led to the singer’s baby leaving home. The mood brightens for Carroll’s “Soul Land,” a fond visit to a home where everything exists in harmony, before Zac’s regular ensemble joins the action for the medium-paced “Love for You Baby,” a paeon to a lady who kisses the singer while he’s still asleep and has a meal ready before he sets foot in the door.

Harmon’s pawned his watch and lost all of his money and friends in the opening verse of the title tune, “Long as I Got My Guitar,” but he remains at peace – and a star — as long as his six-string remains close at hand. It yields to the driving “Waiting to Be Free,” a complaint about racial injustice, before relationship problems resurface in “New Year’s Day” and diminish with the opening notes of “Imagine a Prayer,” which dreams of a world free of division and hate. The disc closes with “Ashes to the Wind,” a wish to be remembered for whatever good deeds the singer’s performed prior to his passing.

If you’re looking for over-the-top blues-rock and unceasing pyrotechnics, look elsewhere. But if you love deep blues, this one’s definitely for you! Strongly recommended.

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 – 7 of 12

imageJS Blues – The Purple Album

self release

10 songs time – 42:02

The JS Blues Band is the brainchild of Johnny Searfoss, who handles everything except drums and the occasional assist on keyboards. They are based out of the north eastern region of Pennsylvania near the cities of Wilkes-Barre and Scranton He tackles the vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, songwriting and arranging. He is backed by Chris Condel on drums and Harry Sipler on keyboards. The real gem here is his astounding grasp of guitar technique and tone. I’m sorry to say his vocals not so much. His voice is better suited for pop music. It is too smooth and is a stark contrast to the driving and imaginative guitar skills he brings to this project. I feel bad in saying this because I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket if I had help carrying it. I would have preferred this as an instrumental album. The depth and tone of his guitar playing is simply amazing.

For my money the track that the vocal fits the music perfectly is “Fox In The Hen House”. The riff and vocal fit hand-in-glove. The dramatically tone guitar on “Crying(Reprise)” in my estimation is all the song needs. Take away the vocal and you have a gut-wrenching guitar tour-de-force. The vocal does tend to grow on you, but the guitar alone is a thing of beauty. Johnny introduces countrified guitar picking to “Best Friends” to good effect, even some chicken pickin’. “I Was Born To Sing The Blues” is about the blues without being a blues song.

A pleasingly melancholy vocal leads up to a breath taking guitar soloing in “Tell Me Why”. On “TV Preacher” his stellar guitar outshines the vocal. The curiously clever instrumental “Sneaky Pete” is sure to get to your musical sensibility as much as it did to mine. Truly a nifty little ditty. “Quiet Moment” is just that. It closes out the CD on a wistful and dreamy note.

Some of the singing and song writing tends to be a bit uneven, but this guy surely knows his way around a guitar. I would love to see what he could do with an entire record of guitar instrumentals. His knack for diversity in his attack, tone and style on the strings is a gift.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 12 

imageRobert Nighthawk – Sweet Black Angel And More Chicago Blues

Jasmine Records – 2021

23 tracks; 67 minutes

Robert Nighthawk was born in 1909 in Helena, Arkansas and died in 1967, following a stroke. In his youth he encountered both Robert Johnson and Sonny Boy Williamson I and recorded under the name Rambling Bob in the 30’s and again, under the name Peetie Boy, in the early 40’s. He was also a busy session musician and his slide technique was a big influence on a new generation of musicians like Elmore James, Muddy Waters and Earl Hooker. This collection covers the years 1948 – 1952, sessions recorded solely in Chicago. All titles are attributed to Robert although several use familiar themes from traditional songs.

The earliest sessions from September 1948 and July 1949 have Robert’s vocal and guitar supported by Willie Dixon on bass and either Sunnyland Slim, Ernest Lane or Pinetop Perkins on piano. Robert had signed with Chess in 1948 and there are twelve tracks from those two sessions but, sadly, only three singles were issued, most of the unreleased tracks featuring female vocalist Ethel Mae Brown who was Robert’s girlfriend at the time. Ethel’s vocal range is a bit limited and there were a lot of female singers at the time, so competition was fierce; still, it must have been galling for her not to have any of her efforts released. From the first session “My Sweet Lovin’ Woman” eventually appeared on a Chess single credited to Robert Nighthawk, alongside “Return Mail Blues” from the 1949 session, the other two tracks being Ethel vocals, but definitely check out Robert’s subtle and understated playing on “Down The Line”.

The Aristocrat single pairing “(Sweet) Black Angel Blues”/”Anna Lee Blues” is remarkable, not least as “Angel” was the inspiration for BB King’s 1956 “Sweet Little Angel”; indeed, the lyrics of BB’s version are virtually identical to Robert’s original. “Anna Lee” will also sound very familiar, a song that Robert got from Tampa Red – these blues songs certainly get around! The third released single, again on Aristocrat, paired “Six Three 0” (plenty of slide here) and “Jackson Town Gal”, a slower tune with solid piano from Pinetop Perkins. Both these releases were credited to The Nighthawks.

Robert left Chess when it became obvious that Chess was going to put its weight behind Muddy’s career, rather than Robert’s. Fast forward to 1951 and we have a session for Robert Nighthawk and his Nighthawks (Robert on guitar and vocals, Bob Call or Roosevelt Sykes on piano, Ransom Knowling on bass and Jump Jackson on drums). With the addition of the drums the sound is bigger and two singles were released, this time on United. “Feel So Bad” is an adaptation of the Big Bill Broonzy tune of similar title and has some fine, relaxed piano work that is lauded by Robert. The other side was “Take It Easy Baby”, a real rocker with the whole band taking off. Robert’s version of “Kansas City Blues” is similar in style as the band sets a furious pace; the reverse side was a slow blues, “Crying Won’t Help You”, another song you will find familiar, not least from BB King’s interpretation. Unreleased from the session was the frantic instrumental “Nighthawk Boogie” which sounds pretty impressive to these ears!

The final session is from 1952 and personnel details are vague: Ransom Knowling again on bass, unknown drummer, Bob Call or possibly Curtis Jones on piano. Six tracks were laid down but just one single released, on State. “Maggie Campbell” is the fast-paced side, with lyrics that reference Tommy Johnson’s “Big Road Blues”; the slow side is “The Moon Is Rising”, subtle slide work and laid-back piano work. The other four sides were unreleased though one will be very familiar, “Bricks In My Pillow”, probably the song for which Robert Nighthawk is best remembered! Strange that it was not released at the time, as it sounds absolutely fine. Go figure! The other unreleased tracks include another instrumental boogie and two slower songs with strong slide work.

Robert drifted from the spotlight but continued to play in Chicago where he was ‘rediscovered’ busking in 1963, leading to a short flurry of activity before his untimely death. Jasmine has done a good job in collecting these tracks for this release which is a good one for any blues fan who does not have any Robert Nighthawk in their collection.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 9 of 12 

imageMemphissippi Sounds – Welcome To The Land


Little Village Foundation – 2021

9 tracks; 46.39 minutes

It was Bobby Rush who coined the term ‘Memphissippi’: “Tennessee and Mississippi, when you put them all together whatcha got? Memphissippi!” Memphissippi Sounds is a new project by two young artists applying modern sensibilities to an old tradition. With influences including funk, rap and heavy metal, the two musicians use the basic formula of Mississippi Hill Country blues and fuse their other influences to it. The two involved are Cameron Kimbrough, the grandson of Junior Kimbrough, and Damion Pearson, whose family record collection featured Parliament and The Ohio Players. Both musicians from an early age, the two met in Memphis and clicked. Damion is a harp player, Cameron a drummer, plus both sing and play guitar, so the music they create has the traditional elements of Hill Country blues but gets twists from the duo’s other musical interests. The album was produced for Little Village by West Coast harp player Aki Kumar, his first album as producer. All the material was written by Cameron and Damion and they are the only musicians involved.

Opener “Who’s Gonna Ride” is very much in the tradition, with a nagging guitar riff over basic drums and harp and a repetitive vocal which Damion adapted from a rap tune by Tupac, but the song also references George Floyd with the refrain “I Can’t breathe, take your foot off my neck, boy”. “Groove With Me” is more concerned with attracting a young lady, a snaky riff underpinning the tune. The pace quickens for “I’m Mad” though the lyrics, such as they are, are minimal: “I’m mad, baby, but I’m not upset”, repeated many times over. “You Got The Juice” is a slow, trance-like piece with minimal percussion and spoken responses to the lyrics.

A familiar title, “Crossroads”, unsurprisingly finds the duo contemplating which way to go over a funky beat and harp interjections. Perhaps having finally made their minds up, they “Go Downtown” with a hint of John Lee Hooker in the rhythms and Memphis the destination. “Saturday Morning” has an insistent rhythm that will get people dancing for sure though the lyrics are again minimal. “High & Low” lumbers along with fuzzed guitar, keening harp and a plodding rhythm; the album title comes from the only lyric on this track: “Welcome to the land, a new experience. A flavour of the old, mixed with the new”. The final track “Look Out For The Wolf” has a quieter feel, again with a touch of JLH in both the rhythms and the vocal.

This album will definitely appeal to those who enjoy Mississippi Hill Country and adds a new name to the roster of those involved in that style of blues.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 10 of 12 

imageWily Bo Walker presents Tales of the Mescal Canyon Troubadours

Self Released

10 tracks

Scottish born Wily Bo Walker is an eclectic solo artist who mixes his music with humor, drama and truly great guitar to come up with blues and bluesy songs that grab the listener. He often collaborates with other musicians as he does here, and E.D. Brayshaw is one who helped out here, too. New and revisited originals are offered up here and it’s an eclectic and fun mix of tunes.

The album begins with “Drive (Mescalito Mix)” and it certainly does drive! The song has a great beat and the guitar moves things along with force. Walker sings with his gravelly voice and reaches out and grabs the listener. Piano, backing vocals and just a tight band and arrangement make this a great hook to start with. “Walk in Chinese Footsteps” is another bg cut with some powerful guitar and another driving beat that makes you move to the groove. Next is “Jawbreaker (Surf-O-Rama)” and we get a full out surf instrumental onslaught. Great guitar, organ and a fun ride through an original surf tune with some slick riffs. Up next is “I Want To Know” where the pace slows down and the sound is funky and cool. They get a nice groove going and Walker again growls as he fronts the band. Backing vocals are cool and the overall sound is, too, and of course we get some more of his guitar to enjoy. “For The Children (When The Nightmares Call)” follows, a ballad that really changes the pace and shows another side of the Troubadours. The song builds and we get lots more pretty guitar to savor.

The album continues with “Velvet Windows (The Moonlight Diaries)” with a down home sound with banjos and a front porch sort of feel to it, showing a litle more variety in their work. Walker sings about a relationship gone bad that took him straight ot hell. The guitar work layered over the banjo is nicely done. “Chattahoochee Coochee Man (Southern Side)” is Walker’s take on southern rock and he and the band blaze through this one. His signature growl and fine supporting vocals and a big-assed, stinging guitar sell this one. “Time To Forget You (Bourbon & Candlelight Mix)” slows things down next, a pretty, slow blues that gets the listener swaying in their seat. The intro with guitar and keyboard is cool and then Wily Bo comes in with the girls and it’s another fine cut as he sings about drinking his relationship memories away. There is some well done slide work here, too. He finishes up with “Moon Over Indigo” to conclude this set of all original tunes. Organ and piano open this somber and quiet cut as Walker goes out with style.

I liked the album a lot. Blues and heavily blues-tinged songs with super guitar and gravelly vocals give the listener something to ponder and enjoy. Every listen makes me like this one even more!

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.

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 Featured Blues Review -11 of 12 

imageAlberto Visentin – Away

Self Released

7 tracks

Italian musician Alberto Visentin crafted this short album in 2020 and released it last January. All original tunes are offered up here. He handles all the vocals, guitars, and adds bass on “Light.” with Stan Sargeant on bass and background vocals, Andrea Posocco on drums and percussions, Michele Bonivento on keys and Enrico Crivellaro plays guitar on “Lonesome.” Additional musicians are Orlando Johnson and Ronnie Grace doing some backing vocals, and the horn section is Rob Daz (trumpet), Steve Salmaso (tenor saxophone), and Max Ravanello (trombone). Graziano Visentin plays accordion on “Light.”

“Island” gets things started. He sings with a lilting accent and plays guitar with a suave and cool approach reminding me a little of George Benson. Next up is “Not That Kind,” a bouncy and funky number. There’s a nice groove, his guitar work is nicely done and he and the backing vocalists do well together. “Easier” is next, and we get some well done trumpet work to enjoy that is added to the mix. “Lonesome” offers the listener some slow blues with guitar and piano to get into. His finger picking is sweet. “Light” follows, where Visentin goes acoustic. It’s a pretty little ballad that builds nicely. The title cut is next and here we get Alberto with a resonator and some horns and pian0 backing him. The album finishes with “Wake Up” which returns to the funky groove and it’s a slick and cool instrumental with a bit of a chant at the start and conclusion; well done!

Visentin is to the blues what smooth jazz is to jazz. He plays and sings with an easy going, silky approach. If you are a fan of that style, then this one’s for you; Visentin’s flowing sounds and music will be right up your alley!

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 – 12 of 12 

imageVittorio Pitzalis – The Time Has Come

MGJR Records

9 tracks

Italian guitarist and bluesman Vittorio Pitzalis is from the island of Sardinia and with this releases his second album. The Time Has Come features three interesting covers and six originals. Pitzalis has been at his craft for about 20 years in Italy and in 2018 was selected to represent Italy in the International Blues Challenge the following January. The album the website unfortunately do not list any accompanying singers or musicians nor could I find any information on other artists who supported the effort.

Pitzalis starts off with “Dark Evil Blues,” and acoustic cut with him finger picking and singing and a tuba backing him up. He sings with a heavy accent and kind of even yodels a bit as he offers up some nice guitar and an interesting opening song. “The Pink” follows with more acoustic guitar and an overall western/cowboy flair. He plays slide and layers some more guitar for good effect. It’s interesting to hear a cowboy song done with a heavy Italian accent.

Next is “Mr. Aron,” another tune with acoustic guitar but here we also get some electric guitar added to the mix. It’s a pretty ballad with a soft and easy sound. “You Treated Me Badly” adds electric guitar, organ and a big bass line to the acoustic guitar lead. Pitzalis lays it on the line with his ex and the respect and lack of trust in their relations. A nice electric guitar solo is featured here. “Looking For Beale Street” is all electric and the biggest blues rocker so far. He sings about freezing in the cold on Beale Street, something I can also identify with as I’ve frozen my butt off in Memphis many a January during the IBCs.

“Are You Experienced” is not just a Hendrix cover but also has some original stuff that opens with and acapella spiritual and then solo acoustic guitar and vocals before moving into a larger production that transforms the song with lots of backing help. He makes it his own psychedelic experience. “Please Come Home For Christmas” follows, a classic Christmas cut done in quite the bluesy manner. Elvis’ “Love Me Tender” is next up, done with acoustic guitar and is otherwise a straight up cover to begin with, but then the backing vocalists join in oohing and responding to Vittorio’s calls. About a minute and a half in we get a kazoo solo, unexpected, for sure; quite interesting, also for sure. He concludes with a fast faced, driving instrumental entitled “Let’s Move On To The Boogie.” Some well chosen guitar licks make this perhaps my favorite song of the album. It’s a wild ride and Pitzalis shows us he really is a very good guitar player (as he has throughout the album).

OK, so while the heavy accent makes some of the lyrics hard to follow at times, and while some of the songs are a little kitschy, it’s an interesting album. If you are looking for an original take on the blues from an outside source, this is of interest. Pitzalis writes some decent original songs and provides us an interesting take on some covers that show he’s got a mind of his own when it comes to performing.

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.

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