Issue 17-18 May 4, 2023

Cover photo © 2023 Bob Hakins

 In This Issue 

Mark Thompson has our feature interview with Bob Welsh. We have six Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Matt Andersen, Douglas Avery, Blue Mountain Tribe, Jimmy Sweetwater, Jabo and Skylar Rogers. Scroll down and check it out!


The Blues Blast Music Awards honor contemporary Blues artists and their recordings.

Artists with major labels and independent artists are eligible. All submissions are digital. No physical CDs needed.

For complete information, click HERE.


 Featured Interview – Bob Welsh 

imageOne mark of success in the music industry is to receive a Grammy nomination for a recording project. Of course, actual receiving the coveted Grammy statue would be a pinnacle achievement.

With just two categories of consideration for blues music, the odds for getting a nomination are slim. Among the releases that were finalists for the 2021 awards, there was one contributor who appeared on two of the albums in the Best Traditional Blues Album category. Kim Wilson’s Take Me Back! On M.C. Records, and the Alligator Records album 100 Years Of The Blues, featuring Elvin Bishop and Charlie Musselwhite, shared one key contributor.

Bob Welsh handles the keyboards on Wilson’s release, then adds guitar and piano on the Bishop/Musselwhite collaboration. His presence on both albums speaks volumes about his talents in addition to his ability to be the expert sideman, the musician who ties the arrangement together while making everyone else sound better. That level of musicianship is rare indeed.

At 14 years old, Welsh started learning to play bass, quickly growing tired of trying to deal with the instrument’s thick strings. He made the switch to guitar and never looked back. A decade later, he began playing piano, mostly to get a spot in a good friend’s band.

He is rightfully proud of being a part of two sterling examples of the best that traditional blues has to offer.

“I’ve known Kim Wilson since the early 1990s. He would put together a band once a year as an offshoot of the Fabulous Thunderbirds. I would usually be a part of that, sometimes on guitar, sometimes piano, and sometimes both. About ten years ago, I started recording with him. For the last year, I have been a member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds.

“One day Kim called me to invite me to join the band. I of course said, yes! We play a lot of the blues stuff, but we also do the Thunderbirds tunes, which is different than the blues routine. I still play with Elvin Bishop occasionally, but he is now semi-retired. I also do some gigs with Charlie Musselwhite. So, far I am grateful for being able to juggle all of the opportunities. Last year, I was on the road with Kim and the T-Birds for all of August and September, then have had festivals and other dates every month. We will probably be out there a lot more as I think Kim really wants to work this year.

“The sad part of this is that Kim used to have the very best guys in those blues bands. He had Barrelhouse Chuck on keyboards, Larry Taylor on bass, and Richard Innes on drums. They are all gone now. When I was playing with guitarist Rusty Zinn’s band, Kim would hire Rusty to back him on the blues thing, and then I would tag along. After I got to know Kim, he would hire me once in a while, probably when Chuck couldn’t make the gig. Sometimes Kim would hire me to play guitar with Chuck on keyboards, and I got to play with Richard and Larry, which was a real treat. All three of those guys are greatly missed!’

After reading a newspaper article that had plenty of nice things to say about Zinn, Welsh decided to check him out.

“The piece described Rusty as a vintage sounding guitar player who knew how to back-up harmonica players. I was into harmonica at the time, so I figured he was someone I needed to check out. We hit it off right away, became instant friends, and ended up rooming together. At that point, I was up & coming, so I was taking guitar lessons from Rusty, and messing around with the piano, which I had a natural affinity for. Rusty told me that if I learned how to play the piano, he would let me tour with him in his band. So I did, because I really wanted to play.

image“It probably should have taken me longer to get to that point, but Rusty really needed a keyboard player. We lived in a place in Emeryville, California, that had a piano in the basement. But there were no lights, so I would take candles and flashlights down there so I could practice and practice. Rusty would make me cassette tapes, and I would play them on this recorder, stuff by Big Maceo Merriweather and Little Brother Montgomery. I did my best to learn it, even taking a few lessons from Pinetop Perkins, which helped quite a bit. After six months, I was decent enough to go on the road. In my opinion, it took a few years before I started to sound OK.”

Zinn was constantly giving Welsh stuff to listen to by the best blues guitarists and keyboard players. In return, Welsh would share his affinity for reggae music with his friend. Over time, Zinn developed a passion for the reggae sounds that trumped his love for blues music.

“I was a real fan at the time. I had collected some records by Jackie Opel, guitarist Lynn Taitt, and Ernest Ranglin. These days, Rusty knows 900 times more than me about that music. He is still turning me on to reggae artists I have never heard of before. I’m always asking him who plays guitar on what tracks.”

“Those shows were so much fun! I loved playing with the rhythm section of Wes Starr on drums and Randy Bermudes on bass. They are two of my favorites, personally and musically. Then I got to sit next to Anson Funderburgh and watch a master guitarist at work.”

While he was part of John Nemeth’s band, playing a cruise, Welsh met the legendary guitarist Elvin Bishop, who heard Welsh play. About a month later, Bishop called the piano player about doing a short tour. But Welsh was already committed to dates with his current employer.

“At that time, I was living at Greaseland Studios, Kid Andersen’s place. I had always appreciated Elvin’s band, sound, and his guitar playing. It was time for me to get out of living in a recording studio. I’d come off tour, get to the house, and there would be an amplifier set up in my room. It was hard to get some rest. There was a need to change my living situation, and not tour all of the time. So I called Elvin up because he was looking for a guitar player at the time. I asked him what he thought about me playing with you. He hired me. That was that!

“We would use the whole house at Greaselend. There was stuff everywhere. And boy, does it sound great in there. It just wasn’t for me. I was at the point where I wanted to live on my own. It was great playing with John, but it felt like it was time to change the scene. It came down to the fact that I wanted to play with Elvin Bishop. So I started with Elvin around 2010, which is the longest I have ever been with anyone. He is a fine band leader, with plenty of great stories, and very generous about showcasing his band members. He has taught me a lot of guitar playing, particularly when it comes to playing a solo.

“Elvin said there should be three main parts. You start off real bold, to grab the attention of the audience, then you play something to keep their attention in the middle, and finally play something simple at the end to let them know that you are done. That advice got me to work out solos and practice them. Elvin is like a mathematical genius. He comes up with these little parts and places on the guitar to play them that I would never think of. He’d say, play this. I would think, oh shit, then sit there and fumble around until I could get it. Every now and then, he will play something I have never heard him play before.”

Welsh yearns for the days when he could hear a few notes, and immediately know if was B.B. King Albert King, Albert Collins, or Freddie King. He feels that these days, many guitarists use similar pedal boards, run through a certain guitar and amplifier, so if you close your eyes, you can’t really tell who is who.

“There have been times on a recording session where I would play something I thought was really cool. Elvin would look over and tell me, no, that’s not it. That sounds like something somebody else would do. Play it your own way. So I would work on it until I came up with something true to what he wanted. He is a helluva guy.

image“I am lucky to be playing with Elvin, and with Kim Wilson, who is a force of nature on stage. I am playing on all cylinders with him. He shoots from the hip. There is no set list. He just calls out a tune, maybe a slow blues in the key of G, and he starts playing. So we are doing a slow blues, and you don’t have time to think about sounding like B.B. King or Robert Jr. Lockwood. You just have to play and make it work right off the cuff. Half way through, you realize that you are doing a B.B. King tune, but playing it like Buddy Guy. It is too late to go back, so he have to finish it out. You just have to play, and consequently you sound like yourself.”

The Zinn connection paid off at another point for Welsh in his career, a moment when another legendary blues artist, harmonica ace Charlie Musselwhite, was searching for a keyboard player.

“I can thank Rusty for getting me into that band a long time ago. Charlie had never heard me play, so I sent him a cassette tape of me doing Big Maceo and Otis Spann tunes. He hired me right off the bat. I was with the band for about three years. At that point, I had only been playing live for about 5-6 years. He had a five piece band with me playing keys and guitar, with Kirk Fletcher on guitar. When Kirk quit, Charlie hired Kid Andersen on guitar, and a decision was made to trim the band down to a four piece unit. So my position was eliminated.

“So I hadn’t played with Charlie in quite some time. He and Elvin started doing this duo thing. Since I am still with Elvin, he got me into the routine of backing up the two of them on guitar and keyboards. Charlie and I hit it off again. Now if Matthew Stubbs or Kid are not available, Charlie will hire me to be a part of his band. So I am back with him again.

“Elvin and Charlie are amazing live. They have an endless amounts of stories to tell the audience every night, about what it was like growing up in Chicago. They both have different ways of approaching a song, particularly when it comes to timing. I have to be good at keeping things together. Charlie will switch between harp and guitar, Elvin plays guitar, so I am the balance between the two in the background. I am lucky to be there! Thank God that Chicago blues is my forte, so I can speak their language. I love Chicago blues more than anything else. I guess that’s why I am lucky enough to play with them, because Elvin trusts me enough to back him up. Being able to play keys and guitar allows me to move on the chess board in a positive direction.”

There are challenges to being a duo threat. Sitting down and playing piano allows you get relaxed, then you have to stand up, face the audience, and play guitar.

“I am a naturally shy person, so I never wanted all of the attention. I much prefer being a sideman. All of that takes getting used to. I still can have some slight anxiety about playing live. Having to go out there and play lead guitar took me decades to get really comfortable. John Nemeth is another phenomenal talent who taught me plenty about playing. Being shy, when I was in John’s band, I would stand back by my amp. One night, he put masking tape at the edge of the stage, and told me that was where he wanted me to stand for the show. Now I step up to the edge of the stage naturally. He always has great players. He has a cool thing going.

“I got hired by John to play guitar on a show in Basel, Switzerland. The other guitar players were Kid Andersen and Jon Hay, the outstanding guitarist in Nemeth’s current band. It was after Covid, so I had been on my couch for a year, and struggling with a bad back. I am standing on stage between them, little Jon Hay and giant Kid Andersen. They were shredding, with me caught between two tornadoes. And then Doug Deming shows up! It was a really good show.”

Welsh has backed up many of the best harmonica players in the blues world. Few musicians have a resume that includes stints with the artists already mentioned, but when you add Lazy Lester, James Cotton, Snooky Pryor, James Harman, Billy Boy Arnold, Mark Hummel, and Aki Kumar, it is clear that Welsh has some unique skills.

“I always loved the guitar players that were behind the harmonica players, people like Luther Tucker and Robert Jr. Lockwood, the way the two guitar players worked together. Thankfully, there are harmonica players out there looking for like-minded individuals. And I love the piano playing too. Living in California, those guys were out here quite a bit. I was really fortunate to work with Cotton and Arnold a handful of times. They loved to hear the piano, as it reminds them of the guys they used to play with. That was one of the greatest pleasures of my life, playing with the masters.

imageCurrently living in the Bay area of San Francisco. Welsh was born in California, but was raised in Covington, Louisiana, across the lake from New Orleans. His father was in the Navy, then became a pilot for Delta Airlines. Welsh isn’t sure why the decision was made to move to Louisiana instead of a spot closer to Delta’s hub in Atlanta. But he quickly got up to speed on the intoxicating sounds generated by the New Orleans musical community.

“I got to see all kinds of great music, but I didn’t always realize what I was seeing until later in life when I became a blues fan. I remember I saw Eddie Bo with the great Wayne Bennett on guitar. I loved that place.”

Other artists that influenced Welsh on piano include Lafayette Leake, Sunnyland Slim, Johnnie Johnson, and Champion Jack Dupree.

“Sunnyland, Pinetop, Big Maceo, and Otis Spann are the piano players I have studied the most. I mentioned the lessons I took with Pinetop. I also got a lesson from Jim Pugh that helped me quite a bit. Jim showed me how to play gospel chords. I am still trying to figure out how to play them in every key. He also told me that if there was a piano or organ solo that really moved me, that I should should try to learn it note for note. That is how you can learn the correct phrasing. When I sat down with Pinetop, I had a recorder running while we played. He taught me how to play this certain left-hand thing on the “44 Blues.” I learned a lot just sitting next to him. But Otis Spann, you can’t go wrong. If you just listened to him and nobody else, you would probably be all right as a piano player.

“Champion Jack Dupree released an album called Blues From The Gutter, which grabbed me right away. It is a masterpiece, one of the best blues albums you will ever hear. His phrasing on the piano is so succinct, and he uses the damper pedal to great effect. I wanted to learn as much as I could from the record. Maybe some of the phrasing might have come naturally to me because I could feel the music. I did a few shows with Lynwood Slim back in the 1990s. He used to do a Champion Jack tune called “Stumbling Block.” That was probably the first time I heard Jack’s name.”

While Welsh is most comfortable as a sideman, he has plans for a release this year under his own name.

“I cut some tunes at Greaseland not too long ago. Kid plays on it, with June Core and Marty Dodson on drums. Alabama Mike sings a lot of the songs. Jon Atkinson also did a couple vocals. We released a couple of the songs as singles, but I want to record a few more tunes. Then I will plan to put out a solo album this year, so be on the lookout for that. Elvin Bishop is a big fan of Mike’s, who is also a fine chef. There was a party at Greaseland, and Mike catered the whole thing, with great soul food like BBQ and collard greens. Those are the moments that remind me how lucky and grateful I am to be playing this music.”

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 

imageMatt Andersen – Big Bottle Of Joy

Sonic Records – 2023

12 tracks; 51 minutes

Canadian Matt Andersen has been producing albums since 2007. He became known as an accomplished solo acoustic guitarist with a powerful voice and won the IBC solo/duo category in 2010, thereby earning a slot on the Blues Cruise. Matt still tours solo but, in recent years, he has diversified his approach and this latest album (his tenth studio effort) offers a large band with strong variety: some blues influences, but particularly Americana and gospel; the band’s name ‘Big Bottle Of Joy’ also serves as the album title. Matt handles lead vocals with Cory Tetford on guitar, Chris Kirby on keys and accordion, Kim Dunn on piano and keys, Mike Farrington Jr. on bass and Geoff Arsenault on drums; a trio of female vocalists add to that gospel feel, Reeny, Micah and Hailey Smith. The album was recorded in Nova Scotia by Lil Thomas, produced by Matt and mastered by Steve Dawson in Nashville. Matt wrote most of the material, with assistance from several co-authors, both from within the band and outside: Carleton Stone, Dave Sampson, Ian James, Andy Stochansky, Cory Tetford, Chris Kirby, Terra Spencer, Ross Neilsen, Clayton Bellamy, Jason Blaine, and Donovan Woods; there are also covers of one song by Terra Spencer, one by Carleton Stone, Breagh MacKinnon and Dylan Guthro (Port Cities) and one by Andrew Cocup, Thomas Findlay (Groove Armada) and Richie Havens.

The album opens with the powerful “Let It Slide”, pulsing guitars, keyboards and the female chorus propel a song that encourages us to live and let live and not to be offended by others’ opinions. “So Low, Solo” describes someone needing a helping hand to get out of a depressed mood, the smooth groove set by the band belying the seriousness of the lyrics, immediately followed by the beautiful “Golden”. Shimmering keys set the mood as Matt sings convincingly about how a new love saved him: “Before you my heart was frozen and I could hardly breathe, but now my whole world is golden”. The band ups the tempo for “How Far Will You Go” which blends a blues riff with gospel-tinged vocals which encourage us to be strong in the face of adversity. The country-tinged “Aurora”, comes from the pen of Terra Spencer and recounts how the singer is looking for a red-haired girl he met at a gig and Terra and Matt co-wrote the cleverly worded “Miss Missing You” about life on the road, missing home and one’s lover, a slow tune really well sung by Matt.

Bandmates Cory and Chris helped Matt write “What’s On My Mind” which opens with the female chorus before the band kicks in with a powerful guitar riff as Matt expresses his determination to write down what he is thinking about, probably the most uptempo tune on the album. Gentle washes of guitar underpin “Keep Holding On”, another ballad with Matt’s vocal wrapped in the female chorus to good effect. As the title suggests “Rollin’ Down The Road” is uptempo, in a country-rock vein before the final three tracks, two of which are covers: “Only An Island” is a song by Port Cities, a slow ballad which again offers the opportunity to appreciate Matt’s excellent voice, well supported by the girls on the chorus; “Hands Of Time” was a collaboration between Groove Armada and the late Richie Havens that appeared in the movie Collateral, a little more uptempo; “Shoes” is a more stripped-back track with acoustic guitar and accordion as Matt sings warmly about dancing “in our little kitchen ballroom”.

Overall this is an enjoyable album with fine vocals and good musicianship but not much by the way of actual 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 – 2 of 6 

imageDouglas Avery – Take My Rider

Greenwave Music

14 tracks

Born in Los Angeles, Douglas Avery began his musical journey at age 5 singing in the school choir. He picked up trumpet at 8 years of age and then the flute as a teen. Avery was deep into the LA jazz scene in the 1960’s and got into the big rock bands of the era which led to his becoming lead singer in a band in high school.

Avery recorded and toured the world and also took up photography and became a renowned sports photographer. He also taught himself how to play harp in the 1970’s and was later befriended by Robbie Krieger of the Doors. He continues his love of the harp and has studied with many of the great harp players; his love of West Coast music led to this album getting started in 2019. It was finally finished in 2022 and now is released for all to enjoy.

Three covers and eleven originals showcase his songwriting skills. He recorded this with the aid of Ralph Carter who produced, engineered and mixed it and it was recorded in Ralph’s Garage in Ventura. Joining Avery are Carl Sonny Leland on piano, Frank Goldwasser on guitar, Ralph Carter on bass, bongos and organ, Johnny Morgan on drums, Aaron Liddard on sax, Jerome Harper on trombone and Simon Finch on trumpet.

He starts off with Billy Boy Arnold’s “Bad Luck Blues,” a nice little West Coast jumping blues. He blows some nice harp and there is also well done guitar work. The title track is a slower blues with a bit of a down home feel. Slide guitar and harp help make this one quite good. The band rocks out a bit on the mid tempo “Malibu Burnin’”. Wailing slide and gritty harp are featured here. “Just Keep Loving Her” is another swinging cut and romps and jumps all over. A Little Walter cut, Avery does a fine job on the harp here. “Jelly, Jelly” has a traditional, down home  feel with a stripped down performance with some tasty harp and guitar.

“Blind Owl Boogie” is a big, jumping mostly instrumental cut with great harp and a superb groove. “How Long Can This Last?” follows with a slow and thoughtful opening that changes to a driving song with cool horns, piano, harp and guitar. “Leaving Trunk” is a solo cut with just Avery singing and blowing with emotion. The funk comes out in the mostly instrumental “Good To Me.” Avery does skat/rap a bit and blows some greasy chromatic harp. The guitar riff drives the cut and the horns add a nice feel. John Mayall’s “Sonny Boy, Blow!” swings nicely with piano accompaniment and lots of savory harp work.

“Safety First” is a nice West Coast blues tune with piano and horn merges Blind Willie McTell and Big Joe Turner into a cool an Avery musical concoction. A stinging guitar solo is also offered up. Avery takes us to the Delta on “ Riding With The Devil,” featuring some great dobro along with his harp. It’s a slick instrumental where he sings a little for punctuation. Avery introduces his flute on “Green Wave,” a heady and jazzy instrumental piece. Avery concludes with “Looking Over A Rainbow,” a thoughtful ballad with simple piano accompaniment. Nicely done.

Avery sings with an interesting breathiness. His harp work is great and the supporting musicians do a stellar job. This is a nice blues album mixing West Coast and traditional blues sounds and a lot more into a fine album that I enjoyed listening to.

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 

imageBlue Mountain Tribe – Oh Great Warrior

Self Released

10 tracks/44 minutes

Blues Mountain Tribe is the inspiration of Robin and Caleb Hairston from Tehachipa, California. They are father and son and created this blues rock band to raise awareness for the plight on Indigenous peoples. In the process, they have garner many awards and recognitn with their work.

Slavery in the Americas was not limited to Africans. Native peoples were often enslaved to work plantations and farms. Estimates in the U.S range from about 147,000 to 340,000 and anywhere from  2.5 to 5.5 million across the Americas. Over time, using Africans as slaves became more popular as they had no where to escape to while the Indigenous peoples knew the land and often had friends and family nearby.

Then we had the acts of genocide waged against Native Americas which go down in infamy. It is with good reason that the blues certainly are something the indigenous peoples of the Americas feel. It is estimated that over 8 million people died due to hate, disease and warfare.

Even today the lives of Indigenous peoples are filled with problems. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 2018 stated that American Indians and Alaska Natives continue to rank near the bottom of all Americans in terms of health, education, and employment due to a variety of reasons such as historical discriminatory policies, insufficient resources, and inefficient federal program delivery. Blue Mountain Tribe works to deliver those messages with their music.

Robin handles the harp and vocals and Caleb  is on guitar and vocals. Pat Mata plays drums and sings while Jeff Cooper sings and plays bass. Jim Wilson adds guitar and slide guitar and Bruce Robb plays B3 organ.

The album opens with the driving blues rocker “Children on the Rez.” This features a huge guitar solo and some gritty harmonica soloing as they describe issues on the reservation. “You Better Watch Yourself” follows, a slow blues with some ethereal backing vocals doing call and response. More slick solos on guitar and harp are included. “Hey Baby” features more calls and response and there is a a nice boogie going for it  and guitar lead to enjoy. The harp follows with another hot solo.

“Stronghold” is  another driving and rocking blues about getting to a safe and secure place. Big time guitar and harp are again offered up to enjoy. Next us is “Pray for Our Planet,” a cut with more rocking blues that highlights about how we are ruining our home. Another stinging guitar solo and another big harp solo again are featured in this one. “Poor Man Blues” is up next, a fun shuffle about how you won’t get rich playing the blues.  More vibrant guitar and harp get laid out for all to hear. The tempo and emotions get taken down several notches with “Serenity,” a pretty ballad with some beautiful flute played by Steven Rushingwind.

“Mountain Down Wind” is some more driving blues with a big groove, and some heavy guitar. Well done! The title tracks is a huge rocker with and in your face groove and big organ support. The band calls for the Great Warrior to listen to their pleas for help Hard rocking stuff with more wicked licks on guitar and later some cool licks on harp, too. The finale is “Sacred Flowers,” with a traditional opening and more cool flute. The song moves into what I’d call an acoustic rock anthem with a call for return of their sacred flowers. They sing how Mother Earth is crying for it’s daughters. It’s a beautiful piece with a sound and vibe hearkening back to 1960’s rock with layers of Indigenous music woven into it.

Blue Mountain Tribe has twice been named top blues/rock band at the Native American Music Awards and have received other honors for their work. This is an interesting blues rock album with a message. I enjoyed it and the messages it sends!

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 – 4 of 6 

imageJimmy Sweetwater – Food, Sex and Music

Self released

8 songs

It could be argued that The Band created Americana music. Certainly one of the first popular acts to bring a multi-genre approach to their music which is at the heart of Americana. Unlike The Byrds Folk focus or The Flying Burrito Brothers Country focus, The Band used R&B and Blues as their anchor. I consider The Band to be Blues.

It’s in this vein that one can look at Jimmy Sweetwater. A harmonica wielding, washboard scraping singer/songwriter with a distinctive Levon Helm style of singing, Sweetwater has a Robbie Robertson indebted genre defying writing style. On his new record Food, Sex and Magic, Sweetwater lays out 8 diverse takes on Roots based Blues.

This record was cut in 3 different areas all with different personnel. In St. Louis, Cree Rider is on guitar, Simon Chervitz bass, and Scotti Iman drums. In the Catskills, Mike Batthany plays keyboards and bass, John Condon drums and John Botten guitar. And finally in Richmond, VA, Scott Martin offers “guitar and Spiritual Guidance.” Although each song doesn’t have personnel listings, one can infer from the sets of musicians who played on what.

Album opener “Say Goodbye” sets the stage well. A duet presumably between Martin on guitar and Sweetwater on percussion and harp this is a showcase for Sweetwater’s raspy croak. “It’s easier to say goodbye when there’s no time to say hello,” is a fun way to start an album. The looping “Pawn Ticket,” presumably featuring Batthany’s electric piano, is a hard luck hobo’s stroll. Then comes the tough funk of “She Walks In A Funky Way.” These three tunes push the listeners buttons. Quirky acoustic folk, shambling hard luck and a funky come on. Clever turns of phrase are also abundant. The “Un-Affordable Housing Blues” and the nonsense of “Slim Slamity Slew” pair nicely with songs about “Seafood Deep Fried.”

Jimmy Sweetwater is talented. His web site boasts participation in over 100 albums while his discography stretches back to 1990. Sweetwater’s playing, writing and singing bears this out. Food, Sex and Music is a cool record and a fun listen. Sadly it is not available on streaming services and hasn’t been pressed into a physical format. You can go to Sweetwater’s web site and listen song by song for free. Although not strictly Blues, Jimmy Sweetwater certainly has the Blues in him and it comes out in a unique and creative way.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6 

imageJabo – Jabo Blues

Alnico Recording Studios

10 tracks/39 minutes

Jabo James Houston and Roy Lee Crawford are two elder statesmen of the East Austin blues scene whose work has mostly gone unnoticed. Not wanting the sound and music of these eminent musicians to fade into the sunset, the band mates got 78 year old James “Jabo” Houston and his band The OL Dogs into the studio to preserve their music..

Houston sings and plays organ (physical problems leading him to a wheelchair made him switch from bass to organ) and the rest of the band  are Roy Crawford on vocals, Bobby Terrell on sax, Eric Przygocki on bass, Nico Leophonte on drums, Jack Edery on guitar and Billy Cummings on organ, trumpet and backing vocals.  Crawford handles tracks 3, 5 and 8 while Houston fronts the band on the other seven cuts. Jabo wrote two of the tracks and the other songs are delightful covers.

“Down Home Blues gets the ball rolling with some impassioned vocals by Jabo, cool organ by Cummins, and greasy sax by Terrell. Edery completes the solos with a nice set of guitar riffs. “First Name Is Jabo” follows, the first of the two original cuts. Jabo tells his he’s chased women since age 12 and he learned how to ride despite his dady not being a jockey. Another nice horn solo and stinging guitar solo are included. Jabo growls out the vocal lead with aplomb.  OBTW, he won’t tell us his second name as it’s never been told.

Crawford takes a turn up front on “Woke Up This Morning,” a cool blues which he sings with clarity and great emotions. Another nice horn and guitar solo are included. Jabo returns for his own cut the gritty “Down in Louisiana.” He’s packing his .44 to get revenge on his woman and her new man. He’s going to get himself a mojo hand while down there, too, to help tell his baby she’s been loving another man. These are some pretty and slow blues brewed up right. A slow and delicious sax solo followed by an equally tasty guitar solo help add to the feeling here.

“Change My Mind”  has Crawford return for this funky tune with a great guitar groove going for it. He again sings with feeling as the organ and guitar support the effort nicely. The vocals drive this one along as the band supports the effort. ”The Things I Use to Do” follows, a gutsy performance by Jabo. Another sax and guitar solo are featured here along with some great organ work.

“Night Tine is the Right Time” opens with some gritty harp and is another equally gritty and cool vocal performance by Jabo. Yet another sweet organ and then guitar solo are included. Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” gets a well done cover by Crawford. He carries the cut again with his vocals as the band backs him.

“Twenty Room House” is Jabo doing Bobby Bland. Edery does some fine guitar work in support throughout. Terrell offers up another solo for us, too. Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” concludes the album, a very well done instrumental. Cummings breaks out his trumpet along with his organ here as he and Terrell take care of most of the up front stuff. Edery does superbly in support, too.

It’s nice to hear classic bluesmen at their craft. Without the urging and pushing by their band mates,  I doubt any of us outside of Austin would have heard of Jabo, Roy Lee and the OL Boys. This is a fun and authentic album performed by two elder musicians who must have been even better in their prime. They still bring it today and I really enjoyed this album. It is well worth a listen or two!

Avery sings with an interesting breathiness. His harp work is great and the supporting musicians do a stellar job. This is a nice blues album mixing West Coast and traditional blues sounds and a lot more into a fine album that I enjoyed listening to.

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 – 6 of 6 

IMAGESkylar Rogers – Among The Insanity

Blue Heart Records

12 tracks – 49 minutes

Skylar Rogers grew up in the tough neighborhoods in Chicago where she suffered through many hard times including a divorce, life in the military, the death of a child, truck driving and homelessness. After a near fatal bout of pneumonia and a diagnosis that she had several autoimmune diseases, she declared she would live her life to the fullest and under her own terms. A second marriage and a move to Memphis turned her life around. In the liner notes, she thanks her husband Mark and says, “You have somehow lived with my insanity for years, and yet you still love me in spite of it.” The album is said to be written from a deeply personal space and the statement certainly leads to the album title.

Music and faith had always been her salvation during the dark times. The move to Memphis allowed her to further immerse herself in the rich vocal heritage of the area and encouraged her to begin a journey in the music scene of the area. She describes her music as “soul-rockin’ blues” and says “Music survives the worst and celebrates the best”.

On this, her third album and second on Blue Heart Records, she teamed with Terry Wilson to produce the album and co-wrote eleven of the twelve songs on the album with him. The twelfth was written solely by Terry. Terry and his wife, Teresa James, provide backing vocals on the album and Terry also plays bass. The band members include W.G. Walden Smith and Billy Watts on guitar, Bennet Salvay on keyboards, Brannen Temple on drums & percussion, and Darrell Leonard on horns.

Skylar’s whiskey-soaked voice opens the album with a declaration of feminine power on “Love in the Left Lane” and advises that she likes “tattoos and high heels” and states you must “buckle up baby, this is my road”. The title song examines the hurt that occurred from a broken relationship and offers some sharp guitar work emphasizing the underlying pain. On “One Last Kiss”, Skylar offers a softly delivered poem asking, “Why did it have to end this way?”

She advises that she is a “storm coming on the driving rain” and “as bad as it gets” on a swamp drenched “Ride That Lightning”.  On “Blame It On Rock & Roll”, she delivers a spirited declaration that questions “How did I get here?” and examines past bad decisions. Bennett’s piano drives “When It’s Broken” as she looks back at a failed romance and remembrances of “all those crying nights”.

“Step It Up” offers a honky-tonk beat as she tells her lover “…you better have a good place to live” and “hoping that you can pass my test” to be my man. She tells “Both Sides of The Tale” as “something is always behind the vale” and reminds to listen to the full story before reaching a conclusion. Darrell Leonard’s trumpet provides a jazzy tone on the soft “Between Friends” as she examines a complex love triangle where she is caught in the middle and pleads for everyone to remain as friends.

Next Skylar “is going to turn back time” and states that “don’t tell me what to do” in a declaration of her re-discovered “Femininity”.  She “felt the world crashing in on me” until she “went to her happy place” down at “The Water” where she could “feel the sand between her toes” in a bouncy, joyful song that “washes my troubles away.” The album closes with the quiet ballad “Apology Not Accepted” as she rejects being minimized and stands up for herself.

The album is certainly very emotional and certainly reflective of her past issues. But it is likely that many of the expressed sentiments have likely occurred in everyone’s life at some time and are easily understood.

Writer John Sacksteder is a retired civil engineer in Louisville, Kentucky who has a lifelong love of music, particularly the blues. He is currently the Editor of the Kentuckiana Blues Society’s monthly newsletter.

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