Issue 16-8 February 24, 2022

Cover photo © 2022 Laura Carbone

 In This Issue 

Anita Schlank has our feature interview with Joanne Shaw Taylor. We have eight Blues reviews for you this week including a new book of Blues interviews by Vincent Abbate plus new music from Kingdom Brothers, Sunny Bleau and The Moons, Mark Sanders, Rodd Bland and the Members Only Band, Jimmy Carter of Blind Boys of Alabama fame, Mike Nagoda and Zoom with Shawn Kellerman. Scroll down and check it out!

 Featured Interview – Joanne Shaw Taylor 

imageAre some people destined to end up in certain professions?  With the talented Joanne Shaw Taylor, who began playing professionally at a very young age and was recently nominated for a Blues Music Award for Best Blues Rock Artist, that certainly seems to be the case.  Blues Blast Magazine had the chance to catch up with the British blues-rocker recently during her first appearance on the Legendary Blues Cruise.

“I knew I wanted to be a blues guitarist the first time I heard Stevie Ray Vaughan, when I was thirteen years of age.  I saw him on a video, and I thought, ‘that’s it—that’s what I want.’  I never considered any other profession. I knew I wanted to play blues guitar, live the lifestyle, live in America, and buy a cowboy hat. Well, I never did buy the cowboy hat though.”

Taylor noted that her parents were music lovers, but not professional musicians themselves. Luckily, however, they were not overly concerned about her beginning her professional music career at age fourteen.

“My Dad did play guitar and was a mad music fan so had this great record collection with lots of blues and rock, and then my brother started playing guitar when I was very young. My mother was a dancer and was into Motown and Soul, so I was introduced to it all. I guess I was lucky that my parents were incredibly supportive and encouraged my brother and I to do what we loved, yet they weren’t the typical ‘show biz’ type parents.”

Taylor’s first big break came at the age of 16 due to some synchronistic events that occurred which led to Dave Stewart, from the Eurythmics, discovering her.

“My mother had breast cancer and I was asked to play at this benefit for breast cancer. This friend of Dave’s happened to be there and picked up my demo tape and passed it along to Dave, and he became interested.”

Taylor was invited to join Stewart’s supergroup, D.U.P. for their European tour.  Since that time, she has remained a solo artist, and recently released her eighth album.  For years she was managing all aspects of her career herself and is grateful that she has reached the point in her career when she can have others book the gigs, drive the van, and sell the merchandise so she can focus entirely on performing the music. 

There have been times, though when it has been difficult for her in such a male-dominated industry.

image“I’m still having to learn how to be assertive, especially as a woman in the industry.  Very often assertive women are seen as being difficult, so I have had to learn to overcome that.  And I did have a journalist get physical after one show.  You know you don’t need a degree or experience to be in the music industry and sometimes it attracts characters who can’t function in 9-5 jobs, so I’ve definitely met some interesting people, although by and large the people have been great. Turning thirty also helped.  There’s a sense of self you acquire in getting older as a woman.  I think the ‘Me Too’ movement, and women being more verbal online helps as well, and I think men are becoming more open to what we’re saying.  I also strive to have a balance of men and women on the tour.  I would like it to be a 50-50 split, but at least 60-40.  I think when there is a balance in gender people are better versions of themselves.”

If one looks at Taylor’s album covers, or watches her perform live, it is noticeable that she does not choose overly flashy or sexy outfits.  As expected, some members of the music industry have tried to pressure Taylor to ‘sexualize’ her image, which she has resisted.

“I started so young, so it wasn’t something I wanted to get involved in, and I’m not much of an attention seeker anyway, and would rather focus solely on the music. But it’s a personal choice, and I think women should be able to wear whatever they want, and I fully support their decision to do so if it is for them—if they are doing it for themselves.  I’m afraid sometimes it’s not.”

Another fortunate meeting with a well-established star led to a second turning point in Taylor’s career.  This occurred when she met Joe Bonamassa at a blues festival, and he then became one of her biggest supporters.

“I met Joe in Norway when I was opening up for him and we ended up chatting until 5 am and then became close friends.  You know, when you find a like-minded person in this business, like Joe or Samantha Fish, you hunker down and keep a hold of them.  I’ve done four or five of his blues cruises, which are more guitar-focused than the Legendary Blues Cruises, but both are great.  You know it doesn’t suck to be out on a cruise ship on the ocean listening to great music!”

Unlike Joe, she is not a collector of guitars, and relies mainly on her favorite guitar, “Junior”.  She is very protective of Junior and noted that she could survive losing any other guitar but wonders how she could carry on without Junior.

imageShe noted that Junior is not named after a particular person, but is like a part of herself, although given a male name since male guitarists often give their guitars female names.

“I don’t like changing guitars that much – I find it a bit of a distraction.  Junior is a 1966 Fender Esquire, and I’ve had this guitar since I was fourteen.  I have had to get it re-fretted, but that’s about it. My second guitar is a custom shop 2007 Gibson Les Paul.  For amps I use two Fender Bassman reissues, and for pedals I use a TS9 Ibanez tube screamer and a holy grail reverb.”

Taylor had mentioned in prior interviews that playing music is like a form of therapy for her. She explained further about the catharsis involved in performing and writing music.

“Well, I get up on stage and scream into a mic and bang a guitar pretty heavily, so it’s like working out.  And songwriting is therapeutic too.  If I or a friend is having some trouble, just getting to write it down can help.  You take a bad situation and get something wonderful out of it and people can get pleasure out of it.”

Taylor’s songs seem to illustrate this point, mainly regarding relationships, and she noted that the most therapeutic song she ever wrote was “Reckless Heart,” a song she said came into her head very easily.

“I was in the shower and started singing part of it and thought this could be something.  It was the most therapeutic song for me to write because it was a goodbye to somebody that I needed to say goodbye to, but I don’t think I realized that I needed to cut them out of my life until I wrote that song about them. ‘Diamonds in the Dirt’, (which was also about the end of a relationship), and ‘Mud Honey’, (with the chorus ‘running ‘round town waving that blood money when your name is already mud, honey’) were therapeutic to write as well. With ‘Mud Honey’ it was more of a fictional thing, although I’ve known a lot of characters like that. I had written the music and it sounded like it belonged on the Sopranos, or something like that—so I had a picture of a really shady type of character.”

Another of Taylor’s songs suggests that it was likely therapeutic for her to write and also might be helpful to others, and that song is “Can’t Live This Way Anymore”.  She explained the events that led to that composition.

“I had done the first album and went full on into non-stop touring and I was partying and drinking too much.  I was also not eating well, not working out, and smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. So, it became a reflection of how I needed to get this together.  I was young but I knew it would catch up to me one day and I had seen how easy it was for musicians on the road to get in a bad routine, so I thought, ‘let’s knock this on the head when you’re 24 instead of 54’.  I still drink sometimes, but now I mostly just have a glass of wine after the show.”

imageTaylor noted that she endured the pandemic better than many people because it happened to coincide with a time when she was very burnt out from touring and desperately needed time off.  She used that time to cook, get a library card, read the old classics, recover, and reassess her priorities. It left her refreshed and ready to create another album.  Her latest release The Blues Album, is a departure in that it is entirely covers, mainly songs made popular by male singers, so her version puts a new angle to each track.

“I had always wanted to do a covers album and Joe is my best friend, and he was starting to produce albums, so I decided why not just go and do it and have fun?  I told him when I was getting back to the music, I was not doing it for other people, I was doing it for me, and I was not going to burn myself out.  I asked him to produce it, and he said yes.  He said come stay, and we’ll work 9-5 and then have dinner and watch The Crown, so it was fantastic. I like when women do songs made popular by men because sometimes otherwise it is difficult to make it different—to make it your own. If a song is great, why change it? But with a woman singing it, just that is enough to change it.  I especially liked the Little Richard ballad.  I had never seen that story in a ballad before.  He is saying ‘I’m in love with you and I don’t want to be—you’re not really that attractive.’ We’ve all had that—you know, ‘you’re not much to look at, but you know what’s going on’, so to have a woman sing that I thought would be a nice take on it.”

Taylor was touring with new band members backing her, due to the uncertainty of COVID. She noted that many of her regular band members were European, so she was not able to bring them over to the United States.

“It’s weird times. There are a lot of people who don’t want to tour, and we’re sort of still finding our legs and weren’t sure if this tour would even go ahead.”

When asked if there were any blues artists that currently impress her, or artists she would like to be able to play with some day, Taylor noted that she usually doesn’t listen to blues music when she is not working.

“If I’m going to listen to blues, I usually listen to the old stuff, but I do like the River Kittens, and both Kingfish and John Nemeth are fantastic.  As far as collaborations, I don’t think about it. I like those to come about organically.  But I did just start working with horns, which is something I never did before, and it broadens what songs you can add to the set list, so I’m enjoying that.  I just really appreciate that I get to do this.  I love doing this and I’ll keep trying to make as good music as possible.  I’m just trying to be the best Joanne Shaw Taylor I can be, but I’m still learning who she is, as most of us are. We’re just learning as we go.”

To learn more about Joanne Shaw Taylor, and to check out her tour schedule, go to

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

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8

imageKingdom Brothers – Signs Of The Times

Groove Ready Records

13 songs – 67 minutes

Kingdom Brothers hail from St. Louis, Missouri, and Signs Of The Times is their third release, having formed in 2005 and released Shine A Light in 2015 and Times Hard in 2016.

Comprising Chris Shepherd on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Stan Gill on keyboards and backing vocals, Ron Roskowske on lead, slide and rhythm guitars, Bob Walther on bass guitar and Rusty Parker on drums and percussion, Kingdom Brothers is a band packed with experience with several of the members having played for over 30 years. Mixing blues, rock, soul and R&B, there is a reassuring confidence and competence about these musicians that never dilutes the core emotion of the playing and the singing.

All of the musicians contribute songs to the album and there are also five well-known covers. The originals range from the opening minor key Robert Cray-esque “Make It Right” to the R&B ballad of “Taken Away”, the blues-rock of “Walkin’ In Love”, the upbeat shuffle of “St. Louie Bound” (with a fine Duane Allman-inspired slide guitar solo from Roskowske), the keyboard-driven “Heartbeat Away” and the closing guitar-driven instrumental, “South Broadway Boogaloo”. The blues-rock title track, written by Shepherd, floats on an irresistible groove and is the sort of thing Eric Clapton would have loved to have included on one of his late 1980s releases.

The choice of covers is interesting, with all of them being well-known to the average blues fan. “Oh, Pretty Woman” stays pretty close to Albert King’s original (if a little faster), with an excellent solo from Roskowske who briefly nods towards King’s over-bending single string style before imposing his own take on the song. By contrast, Willie Dixon’s “It Don’t Make Sense (If You Can’t Make Peace)” is played at a much faster lick than the original, with the keyboards lending a soul vibe and the key change for the solo nodding towards the heavier guitar about to enter. Tyrone Davis’ “Can I Change My Mind” brings the wonderful guitar lick front and centre (perhaps a nod to Roy Buchanan’s classic cover?) and the soul/R&B vibe continues with Sam & Dave’s “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby”, which benefits from an almost gospel interpretation from Shepherd and a fine slide solo from Roskowske.

Shepherd is a fine, fine vocalist, imbuing each song with real intensity and commitment and he is given excellent support from all members of the band.

If one were looking for criticism, one might suggest that the choice of covers is over-cautious. In a live setting, audiences always love to hear songs they know, but does the world really need another version of “I’d Rather Go Blind”? Actually, perhaps surprisingly, the answer is “yes”. What starts out sounding like a relatively faithful cover of this old chestnut (with Joe Warmbrodt guesting on drums) finds new life both in Shepherd’s impassioned delivery and in his subtle variations in delivery, finding a vulnerable reverence in his protagonist’s proclamations.

With top notch production from Bob Walther and engineering by Chis Turnbaugh at Sawhorse Studios in St Louis, Signs Of The Times is an uplifting and positive release. Warmly recommended.

Reviewer Rhys “Lightnin'” Williams plays guitar in a blues band based in Cambridge, England. He also has a day gig as a lawyer.



 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8 

imageSunny Bleau and The Moons – Breakfast Served Cold

Coco Music LLC/Underdog Music and Publishing

11 songs – 42 minutes

Sunny Bleau and The Moons are based out of Rochester, Michigan, and Breakfast Served Cold is their debut release. With ten original songs (primarily written by Ms. Bleau and her guitarist/producer, Nicholas A. Cocco) and one well-chosen cover, Breakfast Served Cold is a fascinating and very enjoyable collection of tracks that mix rock, pop, blues and even a hint of jazz.

The Moons are a belting band, comprising Cocco on guitars, piano and organ, Paul Kastick on drums and percussion and Alex Karasinski on bass (check out his glorious groove on “On Your Way To Me”). Christopher Barrick (saxophone) and Roberto Warren (percussion) both guest. Together, the band backs Bleau superbly, offering muscular support on the rockier numbers and a supple, slippery groove on the more rhythmic numbers.

The opening track, “Let It Slide” is a good example as Cocco’s deceptively simple guitar part floats over the sort of mid-paced groove in which Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac specialized.

Bleau has an impressively raucous voice. Her background is apparently primarily in jazz, but as she bestrides the classic rock of “King Of Hearts” or the heavy rock of “Holy Water And Hell Fire” (featuring ace sax from Barrick), she comes over as an absolute badass rock’n’roller. Indeed, on the early 70s-esque “He’s My Peach”, there is more than a hint of the barely restrained abandon of Janis Joplin.

The hypnotic groove of “Winning” has echoes of the late 60s in its heavily reverbed guitar hook, while the dreamy folk of “Sparrow Song” recalls the great Chris Smither in its acoustic finger-picking. By contrast, Johnny Mercer’s “Autumn Leaves” is given a light Latin reworking as it segues into “Besame Mucho”. These tracks, together with the sultry lounge jazz of “Bedroom Rendezvous” and the closing power ballad “I Should Be Sleeping”, emphasize how versatile the Moons are.

Lyrically, Bleau addresses the universal themes of love, loss, lust and redemption, throwing herself fully into each tale she tells.

Breakfast Served Cold is at the rockier/poppier end of the blues-rock spectrum and there are no pure blues songs on the album, but the blues certainly infuses both the writing and performances.

Excellently recorded, mixed and mastered at 148 South Street Studio in Rochester, Michigan, Breakfast Served Cold is a fine introduction to a very impressive band.

Reviewer Rhys “Lightnin'” Williams plays guitar in a blues band based in Cambridge, England. He also has a day gig as a lawyer.


 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

imageMark Sanders – After Hours

Dream Time Records

CD: 10 Songs, 41 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, All Original Songs

What does the word “open” mean to you? Accessible? Candid? Down-to-earth? All of the above? In tennis terms, an open tournament means that anyone can qualify, and if they do, they can go toe-to-toe against the pros. I’ve been watching the Australian Open, cheering for my personal favorite against the “qualies” who challenge him. So far, though they’ve all put forth valiant efforts, Mr. Daniil Medvedev (#2 in the world) has made the quarterfinals. The lesson here is not that the hopefuls were bad; it’s just that they were outplayed by a tennis demigod.

After Hours, the latest CD from silver-haired bluesman Mark Sanders, is a good, solid effort. It demonstrates that his style of music encapsulates the other meanings of “open.” Fans of Delbert McClinton and CSNY will enjoy its smooth harmonies and casual vibes. However, were you to set it up tournament-style against releases by the actual superstars I mentioned, you’d be able to discern the champions’ handiwork. Enthusiasm and seamless blending of vocals are high points of Mark’s work, unique in its own right. This is a band with a dream of playing the blues, and they’ve already achieved it by producing seven albums. Many have achieved much less.

Joining Sanders (lead voocald, guitar, keyboards and drums) are Suzanne Weiler on backing vocals and Michael O’Brien on bass.

Highlights include the opening track, “The Spell,” and a flawless slow-dance number called “Wonder No More,” hailing back to the 1950s and ‘60s. “Since you let me in, I knew for sure I wouldn’t wonder anymore,” Mark and Suzanne Weiler croon in this groovy duet that would have found a home on several jukeboxes. “I don’t think about what might have been. I don’t have to wonder anymore.”

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to figure out who Mark and company remind me of most: Jimmy Buffett. They have that Florida/Key West/tropical atmosphere going on, lighthearted and suited for background music while sipping margaritas. Their latest offering could use a bit more variety and a bit more bite, but there’s nothing wrong with a melodic, relaxing, summery soundtrack in the middle of winter. Goodness knows we need sunshine to scare away the snow.

After Hours may be a comparative “qualifier,” but at least it’s made the blues tournament!

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


 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 8 

Rodd Bland and the Members Only Band – Live on Beale Street: A Tribute to Bobby “Blue” Bland

Nola Blue Records

6 songs, 25 minutes

Bobby “Blue” Bland was one of the most influential Blues singers, innovating the Blues throughout his long and storied career. A pioneer of personal expression and transcending genre, Bland was able to connect Soul, Traditional Blues, Gospel, Swing, Big Band and R&B. Keeping at the center his powerful and expressive voice through his hit singles in the 50’s, and career milestones: 1961’s Soul Blues manifesto Two Steps from the Blues, the double groovy blast of 1974’s Dreamer and 1975’s His California Album, and later period launcher pad 1985’s Member’s Only, not to mention his groundbreaking collaborations and live albums with close friend and fellow Memphis breed iconoclast B.B. King.

Rodd, Mr. Bland’s son (and B.B.’s godson) has carried on the family business. Learning to play the drums at the feet of his father’s various drummers, Rodd went on to take the seat behind the set for his dad. A journeyman drummer of the Roots music variety, Rodd has enjoyed a creative career. It is therefore fitting that he put together a “Members Only Band” (a direct homage to the 1985 record right down to the album art work) of fellow Bland Band alumni and associates to celebrate his father’s music live at B.B King’s Blues Club in Memphis in 2019. The resulting highlights EP Live on Beale Street is a raucous, swinging taste.

The Members Only Band is centered around Rodd’s dynamic and fluid drumming. A good drummer is always the most important part of a band, and in this case, Rodd is sensitive, funky and always perfectly fitting to what the song needs. The rhythm section is filled out by Jackie Clark on bass, Harold Smith on guitar and Chris Stephenson on keyboards and vocals. A tight horn section of Marc Franklin, Scott Thompson and Kirk Smothers punctuate the music and add the classic Big Band sound that the elder Bland was so famous for. It is hard to imagine living up to the power and depth of singing that Bland had but vocalists Jerome Chism and Ashton Riker fair admirably and do Bland justice.

Of the 6 songs captured here only the staple “St. James Infirmary,” most popularly from Two Steps from the Blues is one of the more widely known pieces. The band focuses on the blend that Bland created especially in the second half of his career of swinging pseudo Big Band arrangements and slapped bass, slinky guitar Funk. The Dreamer lament “I Wouldn’t Treat a Dog (The Way You Treated Me)” featuring Jerome Chism on vocals and His California Album Soul ballad “Up and Down World” featuring keyboardist Chris Stephenson hold much of the originals’ grooves. But in this live setting both of these songs snap and vibrate. The wah guitar drone of “Sittin’ On a Poor Man’s Throne “ featuring Stephenson’s vocals pumps. The slow swinging Blues of “Soon as the Weather Breaks” is taken a bit faster than Mr. Bland’s original and without the drama of the original string section. A punchy hard hitting Blues performance, but not the vulnerable original smolder.

Live On Beale Street is a fitting tribute from a son to a father. Executing with high end skill and precision, Rodd Bland and The Members Only Band thrill. This live recording crackles with that in the moment energy and brings the listener at home right to Memphis.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

imageJimmy Carter – Blind Faith

Renaissance Records

9 songs time – 37:26

This is the first solo release from Jimmy Carter, the last original member of the gospel group The Blind Boys Of Alabama. Jimmy, blind from birth, has been singing for 80 years now. I saw The Blind Boys open a theater show for Billy Boy Arnold and Buddy Guy quite a few years back. At one point in the show Jimmy left the stage to walk up and down the aisles by himself with a cane or stick. Before the show someone must have walked off the steps with him. I reached out my hand and he shook it. Give me chills remembering it. Jimmy keeps his CD rooted in gospel music while keeping the musical backing diverse and interesting. Producer-arranger Ron Pullman penned seven of the songs while Jimmy’s band leader Joey Williams wrote the remaining two. Needless to say they are all in a religious vein. The backing music goes from upbeat to solemn while being appropriate to every song.

“After The Storm” has Gypsy-like violin and guitar for an upbeat vibe behind Jimmy’s expressive gravelly voice. This song contains a spoken word segment as do a few others. The title track “Blind Faith” has a gospel feel bolstered by a backing choir. Violin and Dobro contribute to the lofty quality of “Crossing The Threshold” along with a female answer vocal. A jazzy musicality is achieved on “Find Your Way Home” via electric guitar and violin stylings. “I Am With You Still” Jimmy dedicates to the memory of his friend and co-founder of The Blind Boys Of Alabama, Clarence Fountain.

A lively snare drum intro kicks off the snappy vibe of “I Love To Pray”. Country music shows up in “Lord Take Me” and features an excerpt from “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”. In the closing song “Why Me” In a spoken section Jimmy reflects on why he was the only child in his family to be born blind. He concludes that is why he was called on to work for God. Charlie Musselwhite who has had a long-time association with The Blind Boys Of Alabama plays harmonica in conjunction with acoustic bluesy guitar.

Jimmy Carter delivers his uplifting spiritual message accompanied by diverse musical genres to great effect. In these trying times we now face; his religious devotion is a much-needed anecdote.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

imageMike Nagoda – Outside The Box

Self Released

10 tracks

Mike Nagoda hails from Toronto and is a champion of LGBTQ and disabled people. Born with Cerebral Palsy, he was unable to learn to play guitar traditionally. He finally learned how to play from Toronto Bluesman Brian Cober who developed a double slide technique and remained as Mike’s mentor until Cover passed in 2016. Nagoda recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the development of Cober’s technique in 2021. He also won the 2020 Toronto Blues Society Talent Search and was Honorable Mention for the 2019 Amy Louie Grossman Music Scholarship.

Nagoda’s music reflects his support of those who are disabled and queer. His CD is a celebration of his being LGBTQ in a blues world where few artists express themselves openly. He hopes this album and his story will give others the nerve to tell their story. Born Roman Catholic, Nagoda is now an atheist; the guilt and shame he bore from his orientation under the church was too much for him and prevented him from being able to embrace who he is.

Mike’s Spectrum Blues Band is Nagoda on acoustic and electric double slide guitar, Hammond organ and vocals, Peter Johnston on electric guitar, Anthony D’Allesandro on electric and acoustic piano, D’Arcy Cain on bass, and Jeremy Ronson on drums and percussion. Nagoda wrote or had a hand in co-writing each of the ten tracks. He lists inspiration from artists like Robert Randolph, Buddy Guy, B.B., Freddie and Albert King, Muddy Waters, Albert Collins, Tito Puente and Stevie Ray Vaughn and from other queer artists Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Long John Baldry, Earl Thomas, Jason Ricci and Watermelon Slim.

Nagoda opens with “He’s My Man,” an up tempo shuffle expressing his pride. The vocals are solid and the double slide is wickedly cool sounding. Liam Ward adds some poignant harp here and on three other cuts. “Kingdom Of Heaven” follows, with Chris Birkett adding 2nd bass here. This one was initially going to be a tome on America post-apocalypse but turned into a cut decrying white supremacy. It’s blues delivered with a slick dose of punk and glam rock, including the perfunctory big electric guitar solos. Next is “P.R.I.D.E.”, a funky, rocking cut with backing vocals and rapping by Jesse Dangerously and The Dangerous Rhino. Some nice guitar work is featured here again as Nagoda sings emotionally of his pride. “Here To Stay” follows, a slow to midtempo blues with a cool vibe. “Busker’s Blues” offers up some traditional, slow blues with harp and Michael Keith offering up a guitar solo. It’s well done all around as Nagoda and the band offer up some cool stuff for almost nine minutes; everyone takes a turn doing a solo.

The blues go to ancient Rome with the next track entitled “Oh, Maximus,” where Nagoda sings of the oppression of gays dating back millennia. This one has a jazzy, lounge feel to it as Nagoda bemoans the destruction of the relationships in the queer community. Ward adds some more poignant harp to the mix and the guitar/slide are interestingly added, too. Birkett adds backing vocals here and later on the title track. “Crumble and Fall” is a little boogie woogie with backing vocals and a nice groove. The piano plays a big role here in support- well done. Christian Ruiz adds backing vocals. Next is the title track where Nagoda deals with his life in church. He plays some more great slide here as he sings about the guilt heaped on him and others like him. 2nd and 3rd guitar are added here by Frank Cosentino and Nelson Sobral in this heavy guitar cut. “Conquistador” follows where Nagoda pays homage to Tito Puente, the famed Latin band leader and drummer. Everyone gets his turn again soloing; it’s a slick and vibrant cut. Rex Ruber plays some nice alto sax here and Robb Cappeletto gives us a cool and extended guitar solo, too. Birkett also adds some percussion to the mix for this one. The album concludes with “We Got A Party,” a celebration of all genders and sexualities. Horns are provided by Gene Hardy (saxes) and William Sperandel (trumpet) as part of this jumping blues track. Piano and slide offer some great solos and a shouting party of Nagoda and backing vocals take us home.

Nagoda is an apt spokesperson for LGBTQ and disabled blues, He is a fine musician who plays, sings and writes well. He and his band and friends deliver ten super tracks with a diverse mix of styles and sounds. One hopes that other artists will be moved to openly express their sexuality in their music without fear of rejection. Kudos to Nagoda for his championing genders and sexuality in his music. It’s a fine album and deserves a listen by a wide audience of blues fans!

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


 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8

imageZoom with Shawn Kellerman – Chocolate Cake

Mouhana Music

11 tracks

Born in Romulus, Michigan, Zoom was impressed by Koko Taylor at a young age and began performing. She hit the road and sang and toured with many a great artist. She was invited to join several Chicago Blues Tours to Europe and shared the stage with Koko, Bobby Bland, Albert King, James Cotton, Junior Wells, John Primer, Lucky Peterson, Billy Branch, Maurice Vaughn and more. Not too shabby a resume, but life sometimes calls and things change. She took a twenty year hiatus from music and touring to attend to and raise a family.

As she began to get ready and back into things, she hooked up with Shawn Kellerman, who had been touring the globe with his own band and the likes of Bobby Rush, Sherman Robertson and Lucky Peterson. After completing a project with Peterson celebrating Lucky’s 50 years in music, Shawn and Zoom began to collaborate remotely on writing songs. They finally got together to start making this album and then Covid hit, so another delay ensued as they held the release of the album up. With signs of the pandemic waning, they decided to finally release the album, and it’s a goodie.

Zoom handles all the vocals. Kellerman plays guitar, bass and electronic drum programming. Jim Boudread plays drums. Dave Wiffen is on baritone and tenor sax, and Ray Podhornik is on trumpet. On B3 organ appearances for a track apiece are Lucky Peterson, Lance Anderson, and Jim Alfredson. Dominic DiGravio is on keys for a cut and Steve Marriner is on harp for another. Matt Weidinger does triple duty on B3 (one cut), clavinet (another cut) and piano (three cuts).

The opener “Are You Ready” has Zoom asking the listener if we’re ready for her; she’ a lot to handle, so it’s an apt question! Kellerman plays some stinging guitar and the horns play nicely; a cool opener and as noted in the one-sheet it’s, “Raw, Real Honest and Sincere!!!” It’s a big, driving cut. She follows that with “Big Boss Woman,” a song she dedicates to womankind. She tells us all the things she can handle at the same time and can best any man. It’s a slick blues cut with more high energy music. Kellerman wails sweetly on guitar, the organ is sublime (why wouldn’t it be? It’s Lucky Peterson!) and the horns also add to the cut. “Born To Sing The Blues” slows the pace down; Zoom gives us slow blues and shows she can bring it fast or slow; delightfully fun as she builds and builds the emotion here. She and Kellerman both do outstanding work here as she tells us what she was born to do. Next is “Still Got The Rhythm,” a cut with a little bit of a down home, country flair as Zoom opens with some Yee Ha’s. She blends blues with rock and country and turns it into a cool cut about bringing it despite some of the failings of age.

The title cut is next up, featuring a heavy dose of funky stuff. Horns blaze, the guitar and bass lay out a fine groove and the baritone sax stands out as Zoom sings about giving her baby a piece of that chocolate cake; how could he say no? “Temptation” is next, a cut about breaking up. Down tempo with a deep and funky bass line, Zoom sings with deep emotion. Kellerman again displays his prowess and some keys by Dominic DeGravio add depth to the mix. “Amazing Nepenthe (WEED)” follows where Zoom tells us she needs a little bit of weed here and there to give her the necessary push to get into things. The doctor fails her with pills and she tells him she just needs a medicinal card. It’s a fun and driving cut and we get to hear Steve Marriner on harp trade licks with Shawn Kellerman.

“Damn Well” has some B3 and piano added to the guitar and backline and it’s a rousing success. Zoom gives another fine performance as this bouncing and upbeat cut moves along. Lance Anderson’s B3 is featured next on “My Baby Don’t Love Me.” Zoom growls and sings with passion, Kellerman plays with controlled chaos and the B3 just makes things sound even better. “Love Bone” starts with an air of mystery and then breaks into a sort of psychedelic blues rock where she asks for her man’s manhood. Little is left to the imagination as Zoom tells us what she wants and needs. She and Kellerman set the tone vocally and on guitar. The final number is “Tired Of Hate.” Here the B3 is provided by Jim Alfredson as Zoom sings about the racial issues facing her and other African Americans. She sings with deep, deep feeling as she expresses herself and rails at America’s problem with race.

This is a fine album with lots of emotion, energy and fire. Vocals are big and delivered with passion. Zoom is the real deal. So is Shawn Kellerman. He’s a guitar stud who plays with flair. He remains controlled even when he hangs it all out– no shredding, just big, nasty guitar. There’s a lot of hot music here, not made for the faint of heart. If you need a rip roaring musical ride with some big vocals and guitar and lots of raw, unabashed energy, then look no further; this is some slick and really good stuff!

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 – 8 of 8 

imageVincent Abbate – Who Is The Blues Vol. 2: The Interviews

Blues Encounters 2000-2020


265 pages Softcover edition

An American now living in Germany, Vincent Abbate has been writing about blues artists and the music they have gifted to the world ever since he first discovered the music in 1992. His work has appeared in a number of US and European blues publications over the years. Additionally, he authored the biography of acoustic blues master Doug MacLeod, Who Is The Blues Vol. 1, released in 2018.

His new book is a collection of interviews that he has done over the last two decades. In the opening “Blues Notes” section,” Abbate shares some information that many music fans may not be cognizant of, primarily that skilled interviewers will get a wealth of stories and exciting quotes from an interview session, much of which will be cast aside or cut in order to get your article to fit the space restrictions and word count limits of the appropriate publication. It can lead to some soul-searching decisions as to what aspects of the interview will generate the most impact with readers. And then you also have to factor out memorable stories, often quite humorous, that the subject relates with a clear understanding that they remain off the record, not for publication.

For Abbate, the answer to that dilemma is simply to put together a selection of his complete and unadulterated interviews in a book format. From legendary artists like B.B. King and Bobby Rush, to young artists like Buddy Guy’s protege Quinn Sullivan, the book offers fifteen interviews that make it clear that Abbate has the ability to relate to musicians from a variety of backgrounds, no matter what their status is in the world-wide blues community.

Starting each piece with comments that provides the reader with some context in time for the interview, Abbate begins with a lively discussion with the Holmes Brothers – Wendell & Sherman Holmes, Popsy Dixon – on how they select songs to record, and their thoughts on singing gospel music in blues clubs. Dave Gonzalez might be an unfamiliar name to some readers, but once they have finished the piece on the guitarist and front man for the Paladins, from an interview done two days after 9-11, no doubt they will be searching out some of the band’s recordings.

Other interviews of note include one with a giant of the Pacific Northwest scene, the harmonica playing singer Paul Delay, who released a number of fine recordings of his original material. To his credit, Abbate doesn’t shy away from discussing the health issues brought on by addiction that Delay was dealing with at the time. Another highlight is a discussion with the late singer Terry Evans, who backed Ry Cooder and John Lee Hooker while also putting out some outstanding albums under his own name. In a few pages, the author manages to educate readers about the singer’s background while creating a sense of Evans’ creative spirit.

A more recent interview with Walter Trout finds the powerful guitarist revisiting his life from the perspective of a man who had a showdown with Death, survived, and is extremely grateful for the gift of life. Anyone who has seen Tommy Castro live knows the guitarist has an upbeat approach to playing music. That type of attitude is abundantly clear in his interview, which also explores Castro’s thinking that lead to a new musical approach that was featured on his The Devil You Know release on Alligator Records. The author makes a point to highlight the Bobby Rush piece, because “…it ain’t no phony shit”!

Abbate’s conversation with Samantha Fish from 2017 focuses on the guitarist songwriting skills, while another from the same year finds Ronnie Baker Brooks sharing more details on his career, explaining how his participation in the first inaugural party for President Obama got him connected to his ‘dream” producer. Guitarist Sue Foley talked to Abbate almost 20 years ago, already a veteran touring musician with a love for the music that stands out in her remarks.

When he started his Who Is Blues blog, Abbate tapped the mercurial Watermelon Slim as the first featured artist, and Slim did not disappoint, with comments ranging from his life as a truck driver to Agent Orange and the Dakota oil pipeline. John Mooney is another artist who has stepped back from the limelight, but his 2003 interview caught him at a high point in his career, whipping up a storm playing slide on his 1951 National Archtop in the style of his mentor, Son House. While his name may not resonate with many blues listeners, Josh Smith has been playing guitar since the age of three. He relates what steps he has taken to be able to earn a living playing music, sometimes stepping away from his own vision to lend his substantial skills to other artists as a producer as well as a guitar picker.

Included in the book are B&W photos of each of the artists plus a single page biography, offering a few more details on each artist’s career. The author also hints that another book may be coming down the road, one that will include musicians outside of North America.

A successful interview depends on the interviewer’s ability to connect with the person being interviewed, to make them comfortable so that the conversation has an easy flow to it, like old friends swapping tales. Page after page, it is clear that Abbate has that ability to put people at ease. His interviews are lively discussions that hold your attention no matter who the artist is. The author hints that another book may be coming down the road, one that shines the spotlight on musicians from beyond North America. In the meantime, make sure that you secure a copy of this fine collection that is one fine read!

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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