Issue 16-51 December 29, 2022

Cover photo © 2022 Elaine Hughes

 In This Issue 

Mark Thompson has our feature interview with Robert Hughes. We have six Blues music reviews for you this week including a book for young readers about Blues music from Alice Faye Duncan and Chris Raschka plus new music from Mud Morganfield, Little Bobby, Tré & The Blue Knights, The Ron Kraemer Trio and Ben E. King. Scroll down and check it out!

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 Featured Interview – Robert Hughes 

imageIn every line of work, there is hierarchy. Owners and management fill the top layers. Then come the people that actually make things happen, the workers who through generations have built up businesses and the American economy to a level that has been a model for the rest of the world.

The music business is no different. While there is a group of performers in every musical genre that command much of the attention, there is a large group of musicians who play plenty of local gigs when they aren’t out touring the country. Some musicians have the talent to achieve a higher level of fame but, for a variety of reasons, decide to stay close to home, with family often being the deciding concern.

Guitarist Robert Hughes has had more than a few opportunities throughout his decades-long career, many of which he let slide by to be around to help raise his children. But his passion for the music has never dwindled away. His contributions to the area music scene in Ohio have been recognized by his induction into the Columbus Music Hall of Fame, the Columbus Blues Hall of Fame, and the Nightclub Hall of Fame (4 times).

A chance meeting in 2007 gave Hughes the opportunity to take his music to a wider audience.

“There was a club here called the Blues Station. They had booked Louisiana Red (Iverson Minter), who I played with that night. The club booked a return date for Red. The day of show, I got a call from the club manager saying they would not be able to do the show with Red. They didn’t feel he would generate sufficient revenue. I don’t know why they called me, but I didn’t think that decision was very fair. I asked what they were going to pay Red, then I told the manager not to worry about it, that I would take care of it. I was happy to do that.

“When I caught up with Red before the gig, he mentioned that he wanted to play his old guitar at the show. He told me that it was an 1960s Harmony Stratotone, which is a cool guitar that people like Junior Watson play. When we opened the case at the club, I looked in at the small E string, which had a knot in it. It looked like barbed wire! The other strings were rusted. Red said the guitar had been under his bed since 1967.

“So 15 minutes before our start, we had to restring his guitar. He brought it on stage without tuning it, and started to play. In the middle of the song, Red said he was going to take the solo. I couldn’t believe he was going to attempt a solo on a guitar that wasn’t close to being in tune. Red took out his slide, hit the G string, and played the most beautiful slide solo I have ever heard. All he needed was that slide and one string. That was one of the biggest lessons I ever learned.

“At one point in the evening I saw singer Teeny Tucker come through the door. I knew who she was. When we finished the set, I walked over to her table to say hello, and asked what brought her out that night. She told me her father, singer Tommy Tucker, would take her to New Jersey for the summer. Red was her dad’s partner. He would come walking in big, tall, proud, with a big hat with a feather in it. Teeny said she didn’t go out very often, but she had to come by to say hello to Red.

image“A few days later, Teeny got in touch with me to ask if I would play an upcoming show with her. That was that. It has been 16 years now that we have worked together. I sort of fell in to being her bandleader. Never had a lesson, and I can’t read music. Yet on her last album, we didn’t have backing vocalists. I was able to give Teeny five different parts to sing. I’m not sure how I know the parts, but I think it goes back to the days I spent listening to records, developing my ear. So I am the guitar player, the band leader, wrote the music for all of the original songs, arranged all of the music, played all the guitar parts on her four CDs on TeBo Records, and handled the overdubs and mixing. Teeny wrote the lyrics for all of the original material. My wife Elaine and I took care of the liner notes and photography for the releases. Elaine is a world class photographer. If I hadn’t decided to do the right thing for Red, I would not have connected with Teeny. Working with her has been a gift.”

Working with Tucker has allowed Hughes to tour internationally. Tucker’s last release, Put On Your Red Dress Baby, which the guitarist produced, garnered a 2019 Blues Blast Music Award nomination in the Traditional Blues Album category and Tucker was recognized with a nomination for Female Blues Artist. Tucker has also been nominated for four Blues Music Awards in addition to receiving a BMA last year in the Song Of The Year category for her touching tribute to her son, “All Out Of Tears,” which she wrote with Walter and Marie Trout.

The initial spark that ignited his life-long love of music came from a gift from his father..

“When I was eight years old, my Dad brought home a used short band radio, which he gave to me. I promptly put it in my bedroom. That night I was turning the dial, finding lots of radio stations that I had never heard. Suddenly I heard a sound that was just wonderful, coming from WLAC out of Nashville, Tennessee. The show was hosted by John R (John Richbourg) and sponsored by Randy’s Record Shop in Gallatin, TN, which at the time was the world’s largest mail-order record business. Other sponsors were Hadacol and Royal Crown Pomade Jelly. Being eight years old and Caucasian, I had no idea what either one of those might be, except maybe you put the jelly on toast!

“But it was the music that got me, especially hearing B.B. King do “Three O’clock Blues”. John R would pitch buying the records from Randy’s, six records shipped to your door for $2.39 COD post-paid. I wanted those records, so I asked my father for the money. He quickly reminded me that we didn’t have money for such things. My job at home was to keep our coal furnace stoked, get the coal in the furnace, and help my Mother do the wash. We cleaned the clothes on a washboard, and had a wringer dryer, nothing automatic. Dad did tell me that when I got a job and earned the money to buy the records, I would certainly enjoy them. So I went out the next day and applied for a light paper route, delivering 29 newspapers.”

Once he got paid, Hughes would order records, getting the B.B. King tune that sounded so good, along with Little Walter’s “Juke,” and titles by Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. His father helped out again, finding a old RCA record player with a red 45 rpm spindle that Hughes needed to play his new acquisitions. Equally important, a neighbor gifted him an old acoustic guitar.

“There weren’t any guitar teachers in the Columbus area that could teach me what I was hearing, so I needed the records to figure out what I wanted to know about the music. My Dad would tell the story about how I would listen to “Three O’clock Blues” when I went to bed. If you didn’t take the arm off the RCA player, it would keep playing the record over and over. I’d fall asleep listening to it, and when I woke up, I could start to find the licks I was looking for. It was like B.B. was there in my bedroom saying ,no, son, keep looking. It is on there somewhere. Of course, we didn’t have the internet or YouTube. I learned the licks by listening to the records, which I believe was great training for my ears. I was just doing the best I could to respond to something that moved me so much.

image“That old acoustic guitar was hard to play. Of course, the sounds I was hearing were post-war electric blues. As time went on, one paper route turned into four, I was a caddy at the local golf course, and I sold programs at Ohio State football games. I saved every penny that I made to put into equipment and records. I wound up with an old Supro guitar, then I became enamored with a used 1954 Fender Stratocaster. I began buying and selling guitars, keeping the ones that I thought sounded great. At one point, I picked up a used Fender Broadcaster for $80 with serial number 0019.

“My first really big-time guitar that I saved for forever was a 1960 Gibson Les Paul. The minute I heard one, I knew that was the one. I was playing in a band getting paid $3 a night as the rhythm guitarist. Our lead guitar player was pretty good, but he drank so much that he often couldn’t finish out the sets. The other band members told me that if I learned to play the lead parts, they would make me the lead guitarist and pay me $10 a night. Two months later, I was moved up, and was able to save more money.

“I told Whitey, the owner of the local music store, that I was saving up for the Les Paul, and some day, if it is not gone, I am going to buy it. He asked me how much money I had saved. I replied that I had checked that morning, and had $202.50. Whitey said that if I brought him that money, and promised to pay him $10 every two weeks, I could have the Les Paul for $375. In those days, nobody wanted the Les Paul model. I played it for the next 32 years.”

“I still have a number of guitars but it has become uncomfortable to take them out on the road due to how expensive they have become. In 1998, I ran across the McCarty Hollowbody II guitar, made by the Paul Reed Smith company. The headstock says PRS, but the truss rod cover says McCarty. Ted McCarty was President of Gibson Guitar for 41 years. He invented the Les Paul model. Les Paul, the fine guitar innovator, had his name on it as an endorsement. Ted also designed and invented the Flying V, the Explorer, the 335, 345, and 355 models.

“When he took all of those designs to the Gibson hierarchy, he had one other model that he saved for last. He felt it was the best of class, with two f-holes, similar to the PRS McCarty. He called it his violin guitar. As the story goes, the higher ups loved all of the radical designs, except for the violin guitar. When Ted walked into the PRS factory at 91 years old, Paul asked him if there was anything he had wanted to do, but never got done, Ted replied there was, I have this design, at which point Paul said don’t tell me about it. I’ll introduce you to the guys, you build it, and bring it to me. We will put it out. When I strummed one in 1998, it was very similar to my reaction to discovering the Les Paul. The McCarty had the best sound I had heard in years. I own five of them, and have played about 6o total. To my ear, it is one of the best guitars of all time.”

Fast forward to 1980, when Hughes had the opportunity to open a show with B.B. King as the headliner, an amazing milestone on a journey that started with as a little kid hiding out in his bedroom trying to learn guitar licks. Hughes became friends with his hero, and now stays in touch with the director of the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola, Mississippi, King’s hometown, an experience that, according to Hughes, is like spending a day with Mr. King.

Hughes kept expanding his musical interests to other artist like the Bind Boys of Alabama, Rev. C.L Franklin, and the Soul Stirrers in addition to many blues artists. What moved him was music that fell into the blues, R&B, and soul categories. Eventually he formed a band, which was good enough to make an appearance on a local TV show called Dance Party.

image“We played stuff like Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry tunes like “Thirty Days,” Wee Wee Hours,” and “Maybelline”. When I was 16 years old, I went to Sun Records in Memphis, where I met Marion Keisker, who was Sam Phillip’s assistant. There was a gentleman, Dewey Phillips, sitting on her desk telling her a joke. (No relation to Sam Phillips, Dewey was one of the original rock ‘n’ roll disc jockeys.) I was told I could look through stacks of returned records. I was able to but them four for $1.00. I came onto Sun Records a bit late, but I soon learned about the early blues records by Little Milton, Big Walter Horton, and Johnny London. I loved the sound of Sun records immediately. I also liked the rockabilly guys like Elvis Presley, Billy Lee Riley, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis. I worked my back to the records Sam made with B.B. and Howlin’ Wolf, who Mr. Phillips called his greatest discovery. Over time, I collected the complete Sun Records catalog.”

In 1960, Hughes received an invitation to join Ronnie Taylor and the Upsetters, who had a regional R&B hit at the time. Another early group was the Soul Searchers, a band of white musicians with a lead singer that sang very much like James Brown. In the mid-1960s, he was in band that did a tour with a stop in Chicago.

“While we were there, I ended up going to Pepper’s Lounge, where I saw the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, with Michael Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop on guitar, Nick Gravenites on keyboards, Sam Lay on drums, and Butterfield on vocals and harmonica. After hearing them, I gave notice to the band I was with, and hung around Chicago trying to pick up on things. I was knocked out by what I heard.

“When I returned to Columbus, I formed the area’s first white blues band called Hughes Blues. In 1969, we recorded a version of Jimi Hendrix song “Stone Free,” released on the Ironbeat label. Later on, I recorded and produced a group called the Supremes, a five man group who had recorded for Johnny Vincent’s Ace records label. They had done a beautiful, classic doo wop song called “Just For You And I” that might have bubbled up into the Top 100. It is well-known in doo wop record collector circles. They had copyrighted the name “Supremes” in 1969 in Florida.”

Soon Hughes was hired as the designated house guitarist for a local club, the Sugar Shack, which booked many major artists coming through the region. He was on call to fill in as needed. Bob Seger played the club a number of times, including one night when Seger called Hughes to the stage to play with him. Further down the road, the guitarist was invited to be the house guitarist for a Milwaukee venue, but he decided to stay put in Columbus.

“Around 1969 or 1970, I was in Miami Beach playing with Joey Dee and the Starlighters. Led Zeppelin had just finished a concert at a place called the Image. John Paul Jones, the bass player for Zeppelin, asked me and Joey’s organ player if we would jam with him the next night, which we did along with John Bonham, Zeppelin’s drummer. My tastes eventually evolved to more soul blues than just straight Chicago blues.”

When he is not playing music, Hughes and his wife Elaine are professional photographers. He has several degrees in Photography. His work has been exhibited at Epcot Center in Florida and at the Columbus Museum of Art. The quality of his pictures can be measured by his 17 Kodak Gallery Awards along with 12 Fuji Masterpiece Awards over the years.

Looking back, Hughes takes pride in what he has accomplished, and feels he has remained steadfast in following a vision that was formed in his early years.

“I feel I have spent a lifetime in a passionate pursuit of excellence. When I was eight years old, I heard B.B. King. I told my parents that I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. When they asked what, I said that I wanted to be a guitar player. Of course, my parents didn’t look very happy after that announcement. My dad commented that I could enjoy music my whole life, but I should keep my options open when it came to making a living. I looked at him saying, Dad, you don’t need to look so sad. I want to be a professional guitarist. How many eight year old kids have that dream, and actually get to be one in life. I feel I am a truly blessed man who has lived a wonderful, wonderful life.”

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 6 

imageMud Morganfield – Portrait

Delmark Records 876

14 songs – 64 minutes

There’s no individual on the planet who can emulate the sound, look and mannerisms of Muddy Waters better than his eldest son, Mud Morganfield. But Mud’s far more than a clone of his dad despite delivering performances that – if you didn’t know any better – you’d believe his forebear is still in the room.

But Mud’s far more than that – something that’s revealed full force on this CD, his debut release on the venerable Delmark label.

Sure, some of the material here fits hand-and-glove with what Muddy produced in the past, but Mud spent part of his youth playing bass in soul cover bands when not driving a truck like his dad did, and he changes things up a bit by infusing a taste of  gospel, too.

Mud composed eight of the 14 tracks on Portrait, and his rich, warm baritone carries the grooves throughout with backing from a who’s who of Windy City talent. Thirteen of the songs were recorded at under the supervision of Bob Corritore at Porcupine Productions in Chandler, Ariz., 11 years ago and 12 of them previously appeared Morganfield’s Son of the Seventh Son Severn CD in 2012.

While on the surface this disc might appear to be a reissue, however, it’s far more than that. Sandwiched between one cut captured recently in Chicago and another, previously unreleased track from the Arizona session, all of Seventh Son material take on new life of its own after being lovingly remixed and remastered in analog by veteran bluesman “Studebaker” John Grimaldi.

The lineup includes Rick Kreher – a member of Muddy’s last band – and Billy Flynn – a Grammy winner for his contributions on the Cadillac Records movie soundtrack — on guitars and a rhythm section composed of E.G. McDaniel on bass and Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith on drums with Harmonica Hinds and Corritore on harp and Barrelhouse Chuck on piano for all but the track No. 1, which was captured by Blaise Barton at Joyride Studios in Chicago in 2021, includes Mike Wheeler on guitar, Luca Chiellini on keys, a choir composed of Felicia Collins, Shantina Lowe and Demetrius Hall and Morganfield on bass.

Mud starts things off on a solemn note by taking you to church with “Praise Him” to open. Recorded digitally, it swings from the hip atop a rock-steady shuffle as he recounts turning his back on his wayward ways after a spiritual awakening one morning. His newfound joy is expressed via call-and-response with the choir throughout.

Things heat up immediately, however, through a red-hot rereading of sax player J.T. Brown’s “Short Dressed Woman,” which celebrates a lady who “shows her big brown legs to just anybody she please” and gives Barrelhouse space to show why he was the foremost keyboard player in the Windy City in the current era. The pace slows for “Son of the Seventh Son.” Penned by Grimaldi, it strings together several of Muddy’s trademark phrases and gives Mud space to take Waters’ feel forward to a new generation.

A run of four Morganfield originals kicks off with “Love to Flirt,” a complaint in which the singer fears his lady will get him killed because of her actions with others every time they leave the house. Borrowing a page from Bobby Rush’s “Night Fishing” theme, “Catfishing” uses angler imagery and thinly veiled sexual innuendo as Mud – with pole in hand – announces he’s “goin’ way down in your bottom like a natural-born lover man.” It flows into “Health,” a slow-blues burner that insists that it doesn’t matter how rich or famous you are if you’re not healthy enough to enjoy it.

The heat’s on once more for the uptempo, “Loco Motor,” a percussive pleaser in which Morganfield’s riding the rails enroute to New Orleans in search of a lady with “fine black hair and no underwear.” Flynn delivers a dazzling mid-tune solo on that one and penned the number “Money (Can’t Buy Everything),” which celebrates everything it can’t before easing into “Midnight Lover,” a minor-key ballad about cheating with a woman while her man works the night shift and paying the singer paying the price when he returns home.

Corritore’s “Go Ahead and Blame Me” and a cover of Muddy’s “You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had” bookend the original “Leave Me Alone” before Morganfield’s “Blues in My Shoes” and a previously unreleased version of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Good Morning Little School Girl” bring the disc to a close.

Looking for the gold standard in traditional Chicago blues? You can’t go wrong with this one. Even if you already own the previous version, this one’s definitely worth the 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 – 2 of 6 

imageLittle Bobby – God Made Me Blue

Untouchable Productions/Self Released

8 tracks

Little Bobby Houle hails from Minnesota and is a Native American bluesman with seven well done releases and two DVDs to his name since 2005. He was “discovered” that year at the Last Ride Blues Festival in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, his home town; Buddy Guy headlined that event. He released his first album that year and is a soulful bluesman with a guitar style Influenced by Hendrix and Jimmy Page.

Bobby went on to Chicago and worked with Nora Jean Bruso and co-wrote and recorded her 2011 album Good Blues, which achieved great reviews. The same was true for Sunday Wilde and her 2014 He Digs Me release that he also co-wrote and recorded. Houle began his musical life on drums and moved on to guitar. His early life may have been influential in him getting the blues, and his vocals surely exemplify his soulful blues talents. He handles all the instruments here except as noted. He wrote all the songs.

Little Bobby begins with a ballad with Lydia Rose. He plays some soulful guitar; the two of them sing this impassioned duet. “I Feel Like Drinking” is next, a gutsy and romping cut with lots of slick guitar and nice horn accompaniment by Maurey Finney. “Dream” follows with a nice tenor sax opening by Finney. This song reminds me a little of “Whiter Shade of Pale” as Bobby croons as the sax plays with him. Randy Keonen adds a little tasteful pedal steel guitar to the mix. Next up is “Just Like My Old Man” which pays homage to his musician father; actually, Little Bobby is a third generation musician. This one’s a slow, jazzy blues rocker with some greasy guitar and sax and Bobby trading off vocals with a distorted version of himself. It works!

“My Favorite Mistake” features Rose once again on vocals. It’s another great blues cut. “Bring Back The Old School” is a pretty, slow blues with stinging guitar and well done organ support. He follows that with “Hold On” and another gritty performance. “That Ain’t Right” features vocals by Ashley Nupdal who unfortunately passed away a few years ago after recording this track with Bobby.  Little Bobby begins with some tasty dobro along with Ashley’s vocals and then the band comes in for a big and cool sound.

I enjoyed this album. It’s short (about 30 minutes) but showcases Little Bobby and his friends putting on eight great performances. He’s got a big sound and is a great musician and performer!

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


 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 6 

imageAlice Faye Duncan and Chris Raschka – Yellow Dog Blues

Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

32 pages – Hardcover edition

If you are searching for something with a music theme for the younger members of your family, here is a book that will undoubtedly delight children ages 4 to 8 years old. Mixing colorful illustrations with a sad tale, readers will be treated to a journey that encompasses a number of key sites in the legacy of blues music.

The author, Alice Faye Duncan, spins a narrative about a young boy named Bo Willie, who one morning discovers to his dismay that his puppy, Yellow Dog, has disappeared overnight. Immersed in a deep blues funk, Bo Willie checks with a local farmer and discovers that his dog took off down the famed Highway 61.

So begins the boy’s quest, with help from his Aunt Jessie, to find his dog. Duncan mixes in references to Dockery Farm, the Merigold blues club known as Po’ Monkey’s Lounge , Clarksdale, Mississippi, and finally Memphis, Tennessee. She also adds references to Muddy Waters, the Crossroads, and terms like “boogie,” “shimmy,” and “juke joint town,” giving adults the opportunity to provide more information about blues and how the references fit into the blues legacy. The plot never gets too heavy-handed while dealing with issues of loss, neatly summed up with a short poem at the end.

The other highlight of the book is the artwork drawn by Chris Raschka. With each turn of a page, his illustrations command your attention, the bold colors and animated characters bringing each facet of the plot into vivid relief. Highlights include his renderings of Aunt Jessie’s Cadillac, a portrait of Mr. Willie and his cigar, plus the Hick’s Tamale stand in Clarksdale.

At the end, there is a page devoted to the various conditions in the Mississippi Delta that gave rise to the music. To her credit, Duncan doesn’t shy away from mentions of slavery, segregation, and slavery in the brief outline, which could prompt meaningful discussions between adult and children readers. Following are two pages that add details to the seven stops that Bo Willie makes along the “Mississippi Blues Trail” in his search for Yellow Dog,

It can be difficult to find a way to share a passion for blues music with young children. Thanks to Duncan and Raschka, music-loving parents and grandparents have an age-appropriate approach that should certainly be fun for everyone involved. Well done!

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!

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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 6 

imageTré & The Blue Knights – Back To The Future

Wolf Records – 2022

13 tracks; 65 minutes

Tré is the son of the late Chicago bluesman LV Banks (1932-2011). He made his recording debut on the British JSP label back in 1996 and since then he has released two albums on Wolf (2008 and 2013), and was one of the artists on their 2010 collection From The Country To The City, alongside Harmonica Hinds and the late Eddie Taylor Jr. This album was actually recorded before both those albums, in 2006 in Lyon, France, with a group of French musicians led by Fred Brousse on guitar/harmonica, alongside Luc Blackstone on bass and Cedric San Juan on drums; Tré is on guitar and vocals. Fred explains in the sleeve notes that Tré told him that he wanted to play some Chicago classics alongside some of his originals and this set, recorded as a demo while they were touring in Europe, follows that pattern, with material that we all know and love from some of the all-time greats, plus four Tré originals.

The album opens with a run of five stonewall classics. The band lopes into a shuffle for “Everyday I Have The Blues”, Tré singing solidly and sharing solos with Fred, before “The Thrill Is Gone”, his guitar fills sounding good. The pace quickens with Wolf’s “Killing Floor” with some fine picking from both guitarists before a return to BB King territory with “Sweet Sixteen”. In contrast to that slow blues, Tré rocks out on the slide-driven “Dust My Broom”, a first dip into the Robert Johnson songbook, with some additional lyrics from Tré. That is soon followed by a relaxed take on “Sweet Home Chicago”, the two RJ tunes split by the first original. There are three more covers here: Jerry Beach’s “I’ll Play The Blues For You” became an Albert King anthem and is played in a respectful version that is close to the original; we also get funky versions of Chuck Willis’ “Feel So Bad” and Junior Walker’s “Shotgun”, the cover that strays furthest from the original with skittering guitar work to substitute for the absent sax. All these covers are decent but add little to the originals, they were presumably part of Tré’s live act at the time.

The four originals are quite different to the covers; indeed, if the sleeve notes did not state that all these tracks were recorded on the same day you might think that they come from an entirely different session. “Church Bells” is a duo performance with Tré’s lonely guitar and Fred’s down-home harp while “2 My Lady” is a gentle, soulful ballad with gently plucked chords over minimal rhythm section support; the ethereal harmony vocals are not credited, but may well be Tré multi-tracked. “Shot My Baby” is a longer track, again a guitar/harp duo yet still having a menacing tone that fits the lyrics which are familiar from other blues which end in tragedy; Fred proves himself to be a pretty good harp player here! The album closes on “Heartache”, another soulful song with Tré’s vocals rather far back in the mix.

One suspects that this album was not released at the time because there were only four originals alongside some very familiar covers. Does the world need more versions of these classics? Probably not, but Tré and his French friends do a decent job on them.

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 – 5 of 6 

imageThe Ron Kraemer Trio – Sarasota Swing

Self-produced CD

11 songs – 51 minutes

A former New Jersey snowbird who now nests in Sarasota on Florida’s west coast, guitarist Ron Kraemer and his skintight bandmates are a contemporary jazz-blues trio with their feet planted comfortably in the past, and they make their recording debut with this stellar, all-instrumental set, which would have fit perfectly in the world of café society in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

The music on this disc is a direct link to the sounds of Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell and other titans that dominated the era, blending blues, bebop and elements of Latin jazz into a cohesive package sure to have you heading straight to the dance floor.

Formerly the front man of the Hurricanes, a five-piece unit based out of Trenton, N.J., Kraemer and his bandmates – upright bassist Gregg Germony and percussionist Michael Finley, who plays only brushes throughout – honed their sound while steadily working outdoor venues during the COVID crisis. They penned all of the material here in concert with tenor sax/B-3 organist Reggie Murray, a longtime veteran of the Nashville music scene, who joins them throughout.

The trio recorded their portion of the set at HUH Production Studio in Sarasota while Murray laid down his runs at his own studio in Music City, where the entire package was mixed and mastered by Jim Schachter at The Song Closet. He’s the other “Nashville cat” referenced on the cover.

Classy and polished throughout, they deliver a tip of the cap to John Coltrane with “Junior Steps” to open with Reggie building on the riffs Trane laid down on his classic number, “Giant Steps,” and anchoring it on keys before Ron delivers a sweet, steady solo on six-string. Elements of Charlie Parker’s bebop standard, “Billie’s Bounce,” are present in the horn runs that close.

The medium-paced “Siesta Afternoon” flows effortlessly to follow and gives Murray plenty of space to show off his horn talents and then switching to keys without dropping a beat. Kraemer picks up the lead to open “The Craw,” a languorous number that will have you swaying steadily throughout. It heats up thanks to Reggie’s mid-tune soul and speeds slightly to close.

The true-blue “In Walked Wilbo” follows, featuring a boogaloo beat and steady onslaught of tasty, single-note guitar runs anchored by organ before yielding to sax lines that fly from the jump. “At the Blasé Café” finds Kraemer delivering Christian-style fret work before “Bo Knows” delivers a classy tip of the hat to Bo Diddley atop a jazzed-up version of the beat that made the bluesman a sensation.

The percussive “Reggie No. 2” follows with Ron and Reggie first trading lines on guitar and horn and then doubling the runs before flying off in different, parallel directions before yielding to “Fred’s Bop,” a pure jazz pleaser, and “Gone Gulfing,” a Jimmy Smith-style shuffle that bridges soul and jazz. “Hampton Roads,” a blues with a distinctly Magic Sam/Chicago sound, and the light and breezy “Who’s Knockin’?” bring the disc to a close.

Pour yourself a martini or make yourself a Manhattan for this one. You’ll be raising your glass in a toast because the music here will definitely make you smile.

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 – 6 of 6 

imageBen E. King – Supernatural Soul

Cleopatra Records

11 tracks.38 minutes

When this arrived in the mail I said to myself, “But he’s gone.” So I read the promo materials. “The great soul legend Ben E. King is joined by friends and admirers on these recut versions of King’s most beloved hits! King’s voice sounds as good as ever on this collection while funky bass icon Bootsy Collins breathes new life into “Supernatural Thing, Part 1” while up-and-coming R&B artist Bette Smith joins blues guitar phenom Ronnie Earl on a rousing version of “Stand By Me!” King’s influence can continue to be felt and heard in retro soul artists such as Black Pumas, Joss Stone and more!” Ok, so we’re remastering some of his stuff with  current artists laying on some new stuff.  Frankly, I was  not so enthused, but then I played the CD. What they’ve done here is similar to Nat King Cole and his daughter Natalie, only with a few more artists.

“Stand By Me” featuring Bette Smith & Ronnie Earl begins as usual with Mr. King, but then Bette comes in for her part and then a duet and it’s cool. Ronnie Earl adds som restrained and tasteful licks and it works, too! “Supernatural Thing, Part I” features Bootsy Collins on a bass that goes way down low.  Funky and well done!  The classic “Spanish Harlem” features Rafael Riqueni adding some very slick flamenco guitar to the mix. “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)” is a re-recording that sounds fresh and clean.

Next is the re-recorded version of “Amor” which also sounds sweet and new. The same is true for “Do It In The Name Of Love,” “I Had A Love” and “Seven Letters.”

The 2022 re-mix of “Stand By Me”  is haunting cool. Then it’s an instrumental  version of “Supernatural Thing, Part I” which also  features Bootsy Collins and it’s get down, get dirty and get funky good. The finale is a “Drifters Medley: This Magic Moment / Dance With Me / There Goes My Baby / Save The Last Dance For Me.” This is apparently not on the vinyl version as it is listed as an exclusive CD bonus track.  It’s a nicely redone set of tunes in a great medley of King classic from the Drifters.

Nostalgically cool and well done renditions and remixes of Ben E. King. Ok, the originals are classics but this remastering and re-recording is done with good taste, with excellent musicians and with great respect to an iconic figure from soul and R&B of my youth.  It was a fantastic trip down memory lane!

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.

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