Issue 17-19 May 11, 2023

Cover photo © 2023 Jim Hartzell

 In This Issue 

Mark Thompson has our feature interview with Billy Price. We have six Blues reviews for you this week including a review of a Blues fiction book by Debra B. Schiff and Doug MacLeod plus new music from Taj Mahal, Arthur Adams, Rev. Rabia, Harlem Lake and PD Martin. 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 – Billy Price 

imageSometimes the key to success is simply being persistent. If you believe in yourself, stay true to your vision, and keep plugging away, sometimes the Gods of Good Fortune finally decide to smile in your direction. But the music business can be a harsh mistress, certainly not a career for the faint of heart.

Singer Billy Price (William Pollak) has seen it all. After decades of trying to gain recognition beyond the local market, and not quite capturing it while working with one of the greatest guitar players on the planet, Price in recent years has finally been rewarded, first for an album done with a legendary soul singer, and more recently with two albums that show the world that he is a masterful singer, songwriter, and band leader.

Celebrating a career that now spans five decades, he has released a three disc collection entitled 50 +Years of Soul on the Get Hip Recordings label. The deluxe package includes a 16 page booklet with period photos and notes from Price recounting the highlights of each era of his career.

And what a career it has been!

“I was born in 1949, and grew up in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, about a 20 minute drive from New York City. I first became aware of music in the 1950s. For some reason, my ear always keyed into rhythm and blues. I remember there was a record chart countdown show, similar to what Casey Kasem did some years later. They had a Country music chart, one for R&B, and then the Pop chart. I always waited for the R&B chart with records by Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, and Larry Williams.

“Vocal groups were also really big when I was growing up, acts like the Moonglows. I loved all of that stuff, what they now call do-wop groups. So the radio was always on, and any money I had was invested in 45 rpm records, allowing me to build a big collection. I played a little bit of guitar at at young age, doing Elvis Presley tunes for my parents and their friends. That helped me figure out that I could sing. I also took part in amateur talent shows at school.

“The 1960s decade was the hay day of soul music. There were two AM radio stations around in particular, WWRL at the end of dial in NYC, and WNJR in Newark, New Jersey. This was the time when Otis Redding was first recording, and Sam & Dave had their hits. Of course, I loved Motown records a lot, especially the Temptations. For some reason, over time, that music hasn’t endured with me the way Southern soul has.

“One moment that touched me was one of the first times I heard Otis Redding sing “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.” After the verse, he goes up to a high note on “You are tired, and you want to be free..”. There is something about the tone of his voice that hit me down deep, giving me chills and feeling it on the back of my neck.. I was certain that I wanted to do something like that.”

Some of the disc jockeys on WWRL were probably from the South before migrating up North, and they would feature artists like James Carr, O.V. Wright, Lowell Fulson, Little Milton, and B.B. King, artists who began their careers playing for audiences across the Southern states. That sound had a deep appeal for one aspiring singer.

“When I was a senior in high school, I was a member of the Otis Redding National Fan Club. My friends and I would go to the Fox Theater in Brooklyn several times a year for shows that another disc jockey, Murray the K (Kaufman) would put on. He was know as the 5th Beatle. There would be one house band backing up up all of these great R&B and rock artists. So on one show you might get to hear Patti LaBelle, the Four Tops, the Temptations, Jackie Wilson, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, and on, and on, and on. Each act would do 2-3 songs, then get off the stage. I got to see some amazing stuff.

“Another highlight happened because a friend of mine’s father was on the camera crew for the Ed Sullivan TV show. He was able to get us tickets to see James Brown on Ed Sullivan. This was around the time that Brown was just starting to cross over with white people. James was just absolutely unbelievable on stage in a small theater. In 1967, I had the opportunity to see Brown and his entire revue at Madison Square Garden.

“I will tell you, any spectacle I have ever seen including any sporting event pales in comparison. That was the single greatest thing I have ever witnessed in my life, seeing James Brown. By then, I was singing in garage bands. After that night, I knew that was what I wanted to do with my life. It was like seeing a UFO, or having God reveal himself in front of your eyes. It was that stunning! I couldn’t believe how tight, soulful, and well-rehearsed the band was. Over the years, I have had a lot of bands, and I certainly hope that some of that tight professionalism that I learned from watching James Brown was evident in some of the bands I’ve put out there.”

In his first high profile gig  as the lead vocalist for legendary guitarist Roy Buchanan, Price had to deal with a different approach to making music.

image“The whole mindset of Roy’s band was aimed at jamming, which gave Roy plenty of room to just play guitar. His guitar playing was the reason that people came to a show, more than anything else. But what I was into was putting together a tight, well-rehearsed performance. That was an entirely different ethos from what someone like Roy Buchanan was all about.”

In high school, his group, Billy & the Uptights, were the band everyone wanted to see on weekends, doing songs from the British invasion mixed in with R&B tunes, and standard bar band stuff like “Little Latin Lupe Lu,” “Good Lovin’,” and “Hi Heeled Sneakers”.

“We were a little bit blues based, and did some soul music too. We even covered the James Brown song “Lost Someone” from the Live At The Apollo Vol.1 album. It is a long, 10-15 minute song. I used to do it verbatim with my high school band.

“Once I got to college at Penn State University, I was in a band that was pretty popular at fraternity parties. My next band was the Rhythm Kings. At first, we were doing a wide variety of material, but during the hippie era we morphed into more of a blues and swing band. I think we were very similar to what Roomful of Blues was doing at the same time. I ended up moving to Pittsburgh with that band. At times we had four horns, playing some hip stuff.

“By that time, I had become an enthusiast and a collector of blues music, particularly the Texas and Kansas City styles of the music, becoming a real fanatic for Bobby Blue Bland. We also did material by other artists like Roy Milton, T-Bone Walker, Wynonie Harris, and Roy Brown. The band became quite popular in the Pittsburgh area.

“I think one of the reasons I settled here was a DJ named Porky Chedwick. He was the Pittsburgh equivalent of Alan Freed or Wolfman Jack. He was the first white disc jockey on a Black station playing R&B music, and white people started tuning in, similar to the Alan Freed story. But Porky was different in that he didn’t play the doo wop stuff. Instead he was playing records by the artists that the Rhythm Kings were doing, so there was already a cultural legacy for that type of music in the area, which is why the band became real popular real quick.”

Around that time, Roy Buchanan’s manger heard Price singing at a live show. The guitarist was about to cut an album for Polydor Records, and the decision had been made to bring in a singer for the project, as Buchanan was a far better guitarist than vocalist. Price got an invitation to fill the slot, which kept him busy for several years. He appeared on two albums, That’s What I Am Here For, released in 1974, and the classic Live Stock, capturing a live performance at the Town Hall in NYC, released the following year.

“I did the studio sessions and spent a year on the road with Roy, then went back to working with the Rhythm Kings. There was a second studio album, where they brought in another singer from Atlanta named Billy Sheffield. He was a really good singer, but that record didn’t do too much. They owed Polydor one more album, so they brought me back to do the live album, which among Buchanan fans is the record that really endures. Not a whole lot of people remember the studio album, which is probably just as well!

“Roy was a stunningly amazing guitar player. He was also a very unusual guy. But he loved music as much as anyone I have met. I would make cassette tapes from my record collection and from albums friends had before I went out on the road. Roy and I would stay up all night drinking and listening to music from 2 am to 7 am, just talking music all night long. He was amazing to be with.

“The problem was Roy was so great that there were people in the music business who wanted to do something to capitalize on his greatness, to build a career around his greatness. But he was kind of ambivalent about all that. He certainly wanted to earn more money for his family. But he was deeply skeptical about the music business. His ambivalence is evident in some of his recordings.

“I saw that on the studio record I did with him. He would lay down a really tasteful solo, then the people around him would be saying no, no, Roy, you’ve got to throw more of those tricks in there, more of the bullshit the kids want to hear. He wouldn’t know what to do. It was the first time I encountered this whole “guitar God” mentality, where people put Roy on a pedestal and idolized him. It made me scratch my head.

image“And his live performances could be extremely erratic. I might sing two verses at the start of a song, then he’d start playing After he was into his 15th or 16th chorus, I would go off to the side of the stage and sit down until he was done. Sometimes he would bring me back for a third verse, sometimes he wouldn’t. It was quite a contrast with the precision and tightness of James Brown and his band. It was fun, and I enjoyed playing the bigger venues, but it was soon time for me to go do what I wanted to do.”

Price found it hard to return to the Rhythm Kings after taking two years off, and he was increasingly discouraged with the music business in general, so he returned to Penn State to get his degree, which was for English with an emphasis on writing. During that time, he started the Keystone Rhythm Band.

“With degree in hand, I moved back to Pittsburgh around 1979, which was when I really started doing  things on my own. I wrote a number of articles that were published, including a cover feature in the Village Voice about the career and the demise of singer Jackie Wilson. I probably would have continued with that, but the Keystone Rhythm Band started taking off. That band really had a shot for the years we were together, from 1978 until 1989, or thereabouts. We released our first album, Is It Over?, in 1979.

“Our fourth album, Free At Last, was released on Antenna Records, which was part of of a company owned by our manager at that time. It was a really good studio album done in Philadelphia. We were contending for the same space that Robert Cray and the Fabulous Thunderbirds were working in. We wrote a bunch of songs, worked real hard, it was really good, It came out and just died.”

With a young child out home, and  again discouraged by the ups and downs of the music business, Price  returned to school once more at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where he earned a Master’s Degree in Professional writing. And he broke up the Keystone Rhythm Band.

“Several years later, the Billy Price Band began to emerge. That band still exists. It is kind of like sourdough bread starter. Musicians come and go, but the Billy Price Band is still here. There aren’t any original members still with us, but two current members played with me in the Keystone Rhythm Band. Dave Dodd on drums and Tom Valentine on bass have been with me off and on for more than 40 years.”

The initial start of the Billy Price Band found the singer going back to some older styles of blues. The band featured a number of players that were well-versed in the rich jazz traditions in the Pittsburgh music community. He is proud of his 1997 release, The Soul Collection, that featured singer Otis Clay on two songs. That release caught the attention of producer and singer Jerry Williams, better known as Swamp Dogg. They collaborated on the next release, Can I Change My Mind, released in 1999, that continued raising Price’s profile beyond the local market.

Given his decades of experience, Price has a pretty good vision of what it takes to be an accomplished singer.

‘A singer is primarily a communicator. You are delivering a lyric, an idea, and a feeling all at the same time. For instance, I perform in France quite a bit these days. It is very strange for me to perform for an audience that doesn’t understand English. Putting the lyrics across, and phrasing them a certain way, is 75% of the whole game.

“I guess there is a feeling that comes through from the sound of the voice, the tone, and the phrasing that resonates beyond words and language. I approach it as a performance. I studied at the feet of all of the people I have mentioned. So when I am on stage, I’m trying to personify that ideal of a singer, not just an instrumentalist with a voice.”

In 2016, Price was part of a project that was produced by guitarist Duke Robillard, featuring the great soul singer Otis Clay. The album was ultimately received the 2017 Blues Music Award in the Soul Blues Album category. But Clay’s influence on Price’s career had been there from the start.

“The title track on my first record, “Is It Over,” a cover of a tune Otis had recorded for Rick Hall in the FANEJerry Wi Studios down in Muscle Shoals, AL, for Cotillion Records. I was aware of him, and I loved the Hi Records sound. The second record I did with the Keystone Rhythm Band was co-produced by Denny Bruce, who also had a passion for soul music. One day he sent me a live two LP record set of Otis live in Japan. There were two two different sets of Otis live in Japan. One he did with the Hi Records Rhythm section. The other one was recorded before that, and it is really hard to find. I went crazy over that set. I probably covered every single song on the album at one point.

“My manager, Tom Carrico, suggested we get one of the Hi Records guys to perform with me and the band. First he called Syl Johnson, who wasn’t interested. So he called Otis, who was noncommittal. So Tom asked if I could call Otis and talk with him about the shows. Otis gave his approval, so we talked on the phone for quite awhile. I finally convinced him to come out and do one show in Pittsburgh and one in Washington D.C.. Those were some of the greatest moments of my life. The emotion I felt singing a duet with him on “Is It Over,” I almost couldn’t continue.”

imageThe two singers did a number of shows together, sometimes backed by Clay’s band, other times the Billy Price Band. They became close friends, and Price also treasures his friendship with Diane Madison and Theresa Davis, two of Clay’s backing vocalist. Around 2015, Price was in discussions with Duke Robillard about producing the next Billy Price album.

“Otis had just done a Blues Cruise, and he called me to say that a lot of people were telling him that he and I should do a full length album together. I told him, Great idea, and I called Duke to see what he thought. Of course, you can imagine what Duke thought. Otis started to have some health issues, so we ended up cutting the vocals at the Delmark Record studio in Chicago. It did really well for us but, sadly, This Time For Real was the last album Otis ever recorded. He died about six months later. We were all set to take the show on the road but that never happened. I still pinch myself that we were able to get it done.”

It didn’t take long for Price to find a different path. His saxophone player, Eric Spaulding, was working in Silicon Valley at a tech job. In his spare time, he started playing on recording sessions for Kid Andersen at the famous Greaseland Studios. Spaulding’s parents used to bring him to Billy Price shows when he was a teenager. He has been a Price fan for a long time.

“Eric would talk with me all the time, saying Kid really had things going on out there. Then he would talk to Kid saying, you should do a record with Billy Price, he’s great. So I talked with Kid, and he told me about some of the fine musicians he could bring in like Jim Pugh on keyboards, and Jerry Jemmott, the great bass player. So we made a deal. The first record, Reckoning, came out on the VizzTone Label Group.

“That record did well, so I started making plans to cut another one at Greaseland. That is when I ran into Mike Zito and Guy Hale on one of the Blues cruises. They told me about the new label they were starting, Gulf Coast Records. They expressed interest, so the next album, Dog Eat Dog, was on their label. Both records were nominated for the Blues Music Award for Soul Blues Album. I also was nominated for a BMA in 2020 in the Soul Blues Male Artist category. The second record was also nominated for a 2020 Blues Blast Music Award in the Soul Blues Album category.”

While writing songs for his next project, Price found himself coming face-to-face with the 50th anniversary of his career. He decided to put everything on hold, and work on a career retrospective. He didn’t intended it to be a greatest hits package, nor are the songs sequenced in chronological order. It plays like a live set of the Billy Price Band.

“Getting immersed in getting the three CD set together and putting it out kind of put me on pause for a bit. But in the last two weeks I have written 5-6 new songs, so I now have enough material for a new album. I am making plans to do something here in Pittsburgh with my band. I really want to capture this band. More people need to hear this particular band, because it is really sounding great. The members include Dave Dodd on drums, Tom Valentine on bass, Lenny Smith on guitar, Jim Britton on keyboards, Eric Spaulding on sax, and Joe Herndon on trumpet. Sometimes we add a baritone sax player named Matt Ferraro.

“Songwriting has become more important to me over time. I collaborate with other artists. There are three main partners. One is a French guitarist named Fred Chapellier, who I have done several albums with. Another person I have written with off and on is Jon Tiven, the record producer and guitarist. He and his wife make demo tracks of music and send them to me. I listen, and if something grabs me, I search my running list of possible song titles, and build something from there.

“My main songwriting partner is my keyboard player, Jimmy Britton. He is a tremendously prolific songwriter. Out of all of the tracks he has sent me, I have probably finished about 5% of them. Typically they come up with the music, and I work on the lyrics. Songwriting has become more and more important to me over the years. It is something I really enjoy doing.”

Visit Billy Price’s website to find out when he is playing near you:

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 

imageDebra B. Schiff and Doug MacLeod – Murder At The Crossroads


170 Pages Paperback edition

There are a multitude of books that focus on blues music. Many books delve into the history of the music, how it has impacted the many branches of modern music, and the sociological conditions that helped create and nurture blues as an art form. The auto-biographies and biographies of many of the blues legends can be found in even greater numbers. But if a reader is looking for a solid work of fiction based on blues music, you might have to search for a bit.

Murder At The Crossroads is billed as a blues mystery, and it lives up to that designation. The tale centers on Eddie Baker, a blues guitarist of some stature who nevertheless is still hustling for gigs and trying to earn some money to cover his share of the living expenses with his girlfriend, who is becoming more disenchanted with each passing day.

Known for his tasteful playing, Baker is a favorite of many of the older, traditional blues artists, musicians like Pee Wee Crayton and Lowell Fulson. But sideman wages only take you so far. After a decade honing his skills in the Chicago clubs, the guitarist made a move to California, for the promise of warmer weather and better opportunities. But his time on the Los Angeles scene has failed to solidify his personal situation, a source of much frustration.

Then comes the phone call that turns his world upside down. An old friend from his hometown in Mississippi reaches out with news of an upcoming murder trial. That news conjures up a litany of memories that Baker has tried hard to keep at bay, often with the assistance of alcohol. It takes him back to a night when his world was shattered, causing him to leave town in a hurry, without a good-bye to family or the girl he loved. All of those nights playing music in Chicago and Los Angeles, no matter how fine they were, have not been enough to ease his worried mind.

Reluctantly, Baker ventures back to Mississippi to reunite with old friends, knowing full well that a reckoning with the past will be on the horizon. Schiff uses flashbacks to illuminate the details of the fateful event that, unbeknownst to Baker, changed so many lives. His arrival in town causes the plot to begin to swirl, creating a cacophony of lies, racial issues, and betrayals that build to an explosive finish, albeit with several twists that seemingly come out nowhere.

With one previous book to her credit, Murder To Scale, based in the model railroading community,  author Debra B. Schiff has experience putting together a compelling tale of fiction. Any of the passages regarding Baker’s musical activities ring with an air of authenticity. Credit Schiff with having the foresight to enlist the aid of acoustic artist Doug MacLeod in writing the book. A true master of the music, MacLeod ”lends” Baker’s character a number of stories from his own life, tales that came from his experiences with Crayton, George “Harmonica” Smith, Smokey Wilson, and other West coast legends.

MacLeod’ participation also ensures that the finer points of a musician’s life, and the art of making music, are accurately portrayed throughout the tale. Schiff adds an extra layer of realism by integrating other blues artists like William Clarke, Rod & Honey Piazza, and Son Seals into the story-line.

While it starts out a bit slow, the plot picks up the pace in short order. A few more pages would have allowed Schiff to add some depth to Baker’s character. That aside, readers should find plenty to enjoy with this mystery centered in what many claim as the land where the blues began.

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 – 2 of 6 

imageTaj Mahal – Savoy

Stony Plain Records – 2023

14 Songs – 59 minutes

Taj Mahal has spent his entire life in the pursuit and involvement of music. Mahal was born Henry St. Clair Fredericks in Harlem on May 17, 1942. His father was a jazz pianist with Caribbean roots. His mother was a gospel-singing schoolteacher from South Carolina. He was raised to have an appreciation of the arts and to have a great consciousness of his African heritage.

In the early 60’s, while studying agriculture and animal husbandry at the University of Massachusetts, he claims that the name of Taj Mahal came to him in a dream. He formed a folk-blues group named Taj Mahal & The Elektras, which performed regionally during that period. After graduation, he moved to Los Angeles where he formed a friendship with Ry Cooder which resulted in the formation of The Rising Sons and an album released in 1964.

In 1968, he released his first solo self-titled album. Over the course of years following that release, Taj has released dozens of albums exploring the gamut of roots music, ranging from children’s music to the Caribbean, Hawaiian, Africa and certainly variations of electric and acoustic blues. His most recent releases include a team-up with Keb Mo on Tajmo and a return to his beginning with a Ry Cooder team up on 2022’s Get On Board: The Songs of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. 

With this newest release he is looking further into the past to the classical music that was heard at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom in the 1930’s and 40’s. Taj said that he grew up in the era of swing and be-bop. The album takes a huge leap back to that era’s big band styled-swing music.  In the album’s introduction, Taj says his parents first met at the Savoy while listening to Ella Fitzgerald and offers his version of “Stompin’ at the Savoy” concluding with a little scat singing.

He moves on into Duke Ellington’s 1945 song, “I’m Just A Lucky So and So” accented by some nice flute work from Kristen Strom. “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You” was first recorded in 1929 by McKinney’s Cotton Pickers. Nat King Cole subsequently had a hit with it in 1945, which is the version Taj references on this album. John Simon, Taj’s long-time musical associate and producer of many of Taj’s albums over the years including this one, plays piano on the cut.

George Gershwin’s “Summertime” was first written in 1935 and performed in the stage musical “Porgy and Bess”.  Billie Holiday had a hit with the song in 1936. John gives Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo” a fresh arrangement and was Taj’s first choice for songs to include on the album. The mood shifts to jump blues as Louis Jordan’s 1943 hit “Is You or Is You Ain’t My Baby” with Danny Caron’s guitar and John Simon’s piano floating among the horns including a strong trumpet solo by Erik Jekabson.

Danny’s guitar again comes to the front on “Do Nothing ‘Till You Hear From Me”, previously recorded by both Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. “Sweet Georgia Brown” was first recorded in 1925 and has been recorded by numerous performers in the years since including a jazz inflection by The Mills Brothers in the 1930’s. The bouncy song features a violin solo by Evan Price. Frank Loesser wrote “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” in 1944 and received an Oscar for Best Original Song in the 1949 movie “Neptune’s Daughter”, which starred Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban. Dean Martin also later had a hit with it. Maria Muldaur joins Taj for the classic duet of man begging his woman to spend the night.

The 1924 musical “Lady Be Good” featured the song of the same name. Taj references the song version to one by Lester Young and again Taj scat sings through it as sax players Charles McNeal and Lincoln Adler trade notes. “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home” was a hit for Bessie Smith. Eric Jekabson again has a strong trumpet solo.  The jump blues of Louis Jordan’s 1945 “Caldonia” again brings some heat to the mix.

Taj adds harp and Kristen Strom adds sax to Benny Golson’s “Killer Joe”, which was first recorded in 1960.   Johnny Mercer recorded “One For My Baby (And One More For The Road” for the 1943 film “The Sky’s The Limit”. Count Basie, Frank Sinatra and Ray Charles all had hits with the song. Taj said he is remaining faithful to the performances of all the artists, but particularly is referencing the performance of Charles.

The Savoy Ballroom existed from 1926 to 1958. With exception of “Killer Joe”, which as noted was first released in 1960, all of these songs would have been featured in many of the performances at the famed venue. Taj clearly has a love of all of these classic songs and presents them in faithful new versions.

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.


 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 6 

imageArthur Adams – Kick Up Some Dust

Cleopatra Records

11 tracks – 46 minutes

Arthur Adams was born on Christmas Day, 1943. He began singing in the church choir at age six but did not pick up the guitar until he was in his teens. He studied music at Tennessee State University and played in the school’s resident jazz and blues groups. Howard Carroll, guitarist for the Dixie Hummingbirds was an early influence. In 1964, he relocated to Los Angeles, where he became a session musician for Quincy Jones and Hugh Masekela.  Over the years he has performed with and written songs for B.B. King and Bonnie Raitt among many others and played on Bonnie’s album, Nick of Time”. In 1970, he recorded his first album, It’s Private Tonight, for Blue Thumb Records. The album was co-produced by Bonnie Raitt and Tommy Li Puma.

He released four alums in the 1970’s, but then stepped back from his out-front position, only occasionally doing session work and composing songs for others including two tracks for B.B. King’s 1992 album, There is Always one More Time. He also became the house bandleader for B.B.’s Los Angeles blues club. In 1999, he released his first new recording in 20 years. This is his fifth release since that second coming of his music.

This new album features eleven songs that come from his personal observations and conversations. He brought in a large group of friends that have worked with him over the years including drummers James Gadson who worked with Paul McCartney and Marvin Gaye and Greg Brown who was with Thelma Houston and Bobby Womack. Keyboardist Hense Powell also worked with Bobby Womack. Bassist Freddie Washington played with Herbie Hancock and Steely Dan.

The album opens with the soulful “It Makes Me Mad” that “you act like you don’t care for me” which leads into a great guitar run. He advises that he is “Starving For Your Love”, which offers a stinging guitar run that brings some reminiscence of B.B. King and adds horns to the mix. He begs her to “Hold on to Me”, pledging “smooth sailing from now on” in a plaintive plea. On “Fly With me To Paradise” he encourages her “to get aboard his plane” where they will find “joy and happiness…and all of our friends will be there”.

After the first slow, soulful songs, Arthur is ready to “Kick Up Some Dust” with an instrumental with a punching funk groove. He then moves back into a ballad as he declares “I Love You More” citing “my love goes on forever…your smile warms my soul”. Arthur proclaims that he learned his lessons from the “University of Hard Knocks” and advises to “never be no one’s fool” and “there is no instructor to heal a broken heart” in a very robust blues song.

He brings back the funk with his guitar rocking out with a touch of Albert King styled sting on “Done Got Over You” as he “washed himself clean of a bad situation” with The Waters Sisters joining in on backing vocals. He gets a little rock jive going on “Cool as a Cucumber” noting the guy is “known by everyone…the one everyone wants to be”. “Thieves of Love” rolls back into a slow discussion of an affair where they “must meet somewhere where we are clear out of sight”. The album ends with a second instrumental “A Bag of Soul”.

Arthur’s guitar constantly is excellent, and his vocals will bring to mind other soul blues singers, including perhaps Bobby “Blue” Bland. The attached notes for the album advise that later in 2023, Arthur will be touring with Shirley King, B.B.’s daughter, in a tribute to her father and offering stories from the two about their personal interactions with the blues icon. Certainly, something to be on the lookout for this summer.

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.

 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 6 

imageRev. Rabia – Ol’ Guitar

self release

16 songs time – 58:32

Rev. Rabia originally from Sacramento, California and a Bay Area transplant with a thirty year career there as a singer-songwriter-guitarist of the folkie mostly acoustic-roots music variety with a slight hippie slant. She wrote or co-wrote nine of the songs with her partner in crime and lead guitarist Keizo Yamazawa. Alex Baum plays everything but the kitchen sink, as he contributes acoustic and electric bass, drums, keyboards, percussion and electric guitar on one track. Sam Andrew of Big Brother & The Holding Company fame plays guitar on two songs and Japanese spoken word on the final song. This is a 2021 release that encompasses songs recorded between 2010 and 2018.

“Mama Java” is a slightly veiled ode to coffee with word references like “bitter” and “grounds”. She recalls her mother gifting her an “Ol’ Guitar” on tis rambling song with references to old blues masters. The bouncy “Holy Blues” is a recollection of herself that features the late San Francisco stalwart Sam Andrew on electric guitar. She delivers a plaintive vocal on “Hand Me A Wrench”. “Hand me a wrench, my life’s out of whack”, accompanied by just her acoustic guitar.

She covers two of the late Americana singer-songwriter Chris Whitley that includes a bit of his unique vocal inflection. Her reading of “Poison Girl” is pretty true to the original with some nice piano by Alex Baum. “Big Sky Country” is given a slowed-up treatment.

“Time” is a mellow piano driven tune about the passing of it. “Walking In My Mind” maintains a similar easy going vibe.

The first instrumental “Passion” has a laid-back San Francisco meandering 60s hippie vibe, while “Melrose” has more of a Grateful Dead trippy jam band sound. Both songs are welcome interludes to the singer-songwriter usual suspects.

Memphis Minnie’s “Black Cat Blues” contrary to explanations I have read of it being about a cat, I would say that it has a double meaning. “Everybody wants to buy my kitty”. You figure it out. She gives a good reading of Joni Mitchell’s “Night Ride Home” along with John Prine’s “Great Rain”. I am not familiar with Prine’s song, but isn’t one of his more lyrically creative songs. The public domain “Lowlands” is solemnly delivered with just the accompaniment of acoustic guitar. Kyu Sakamoto’s 1963 hit “Sukyaki(Ue O Muite Arukou) closes it all out as Sam Andrew parrots her singing with Japanese spoken word.

A very enjoyable and listenable recording with Rev. Rabia’s lilting vocals and acoustic guitar skills. The spare backing contributes to a soothing and creative experience. A folkie-hippie vibe hovers over the proceedings. Take that as a compliment.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6 

imageHarlem Lake – Volition Live

Self-produced CD

13 songs – 73 minutes

One of the most exciting bands coming out of Europe in the past decade, Netherlands-based Harlem Lake captured the European Blues Challenge in 2022 and celebrate both their victory and their re-emergence from the COVID crisis with this over-the-top serving of what they do best: delivering a healthy mix of original blues, blues-rock and well-crafted, blues-infused covers from the ‘70s.

Harlem Lake are a five-piece core unit that works in a flexible lineup that includes up to a dozen musicians and vocalists for major shows, like this one, which was captured at the Culemborg Blues & Better Get Hit Festival last summer. The group began to take root in the polder of Haarlem –the low farmland reclaimed from the North Sea — about six years ago when 16-year-old keyboard protégé Dave Warmerham joined forces with guitarist Sonny Ray Van Den Berg and Janne Timmer, a female vocalist with a powerful alto, after making a name for himself by making it to the semi-finals of the 2017 International Blues Challenge.

After working as the Dave Warmerham Band for a few months as a trio, they added drummer Rick Van de Voort and bassist Lars Hoogland and Harlem Lake was born. They opened for Walter Trout on their first show before building  a large following at major clubs and festivals across Europe and releasing a well-received live debut album, A Fool’s Paradise Vol. 1, in the process.

Sidelined by COVID-19, they disbanded and reformed with a new rhythm section — drummer Benjamin Torbijn and bassist Kjelt Ostendorf — and began expanding their sound, drawing influences from Dire Straits, Little Feat, B.B. King, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen and Joe Bonamassa and giving birth to new, big-band arrangements.

In addition to the five principals here, the lineup’s augmented by a horn section composed of Jazzton Hulsebosch (sax), Martin Combrink (trombone) and Bart Van Der List and Thomas Heikoop (trumpets) along with Ashley De Jong and Megan Zinschitz on backing vocals.

Mixing seven originals and six covers, the disc opens with Van Den Berg on slide to open “The River,” a cautionary, steady-driving, unhurried rocker that stresses the importance of learning from past mistakes. The horn-fueled “Beware” — a hit for Ann Peebles in 1975 – follows with a warning about another woman messing with another lady’s home with Warmerham shining on the 88s before the band delivers a six-plus minute update of jazz sax giant Lou Donaldson’s stop-time pleaser, “Whiskey Drinking Woman.”

A run of four originals begins with the powerful rocker “Deaf & Blind,” which assures a lover that everything will be all right despite the unspoken torment that’s befallen them. The mood brightens with “Guide Me Home,” which opens as a quiet ballad and slowly builds in intensity throughout, before the soulful “I Wish I Could Go Running” swings relentlessly from the hip. The set concludes with “Please Watch My Bag,” a slow-paced rocker that describes the last words of a woman until she disappears forever into the darkness of the night.

Eric Clapton’s “Got to Get Better in a Little While” opens a run of three covers that includes a reimagined reworking of O.V. Wright’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is” and a straightforward redo of The Box Tops’ “The Letter” before two more originals – “I Won’t Complain” and “Jack in the Box” bookend Tower of Power’s “Don’t Change Horses” to close.

A top-notch performance from beginning to end, Volition Live is definitely worth your ear. It’s available through Amazon and other online retailers or direct from the band (address above).

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 

imagePD Martin – Soulbeat Incarnate

Naked Records

11 songs time – 40:13

First rate blues-rock from Belgium via guitarist-singer-songwriter JD Martin(Piet Vercauteren) and his two piece band augmented by two organists, a sax man and a background vocalist. JD’s wicked guitar licks are the star of this show, along with his poignant vocalizations and songwriting abilities. There is nothing deep or illuminating in the lyrical content, but what you get is full out blues rock magic with a few stops in jump blues with a touch of jazz. PD composed all the songs.

A jaw-dropping guitar riff is followed up by a refreshing, well-crafted solo on “Make Me Pay”. Snappy riffs and grooves are the name of the game once again as they just zip into “Come To Bed” lickity-split. Jazzy guitar, Hammond organ and sax change up the atmosphere, showing the versatility of this outfit on “Strip It Down”. “Burn The Witch” explores cool Rythm & Blues territory. “You can burn the witch, but your demons won’t go”. Thinks get funked up in the driving guitar rock of “Wild River”.

The closest they get to actual blues is “Artificial State Of Misery”. He lets loose his guitar attack here. “Tantric Beach Night” is a slow and simmering romantic excursion on the beach. “4T2” is basically a spirited instrumental save for a brief spoken word segment. PD once again displays his versatility on his axe as he spits out jump blues riffs as sure as hell on “Too Good To Be True”. Short but sweet. The title song “Soulbeat Incarnate” is a slice of way cool funk. PD pulls off some nifty wah-wah riffs on the high energy “That’s My Gal”. “She is as sweet as sugar, crazy as hell”.

PD and crew do blues-rock proud here as they show their ability in various styles. JD,s guitar magic is ably supported by his rhythm section of Joris Holderbeke on bass and Rien Gees on drums. Patrick Cuyvers and Pieter Goosens add Hammond organ to seven tracks. Tess Thyssen adds backing vocals. Sax player JB Biesmans also handled the surefire production values. Blues-rock might not be to everyone’s liking, but these guys should have no trouble in changing some minds.

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

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