Issue 17-2 January 12, 2023

Cover photo © 2023 Bob Kieser

 In This Issue 

Bucky O’Hare has our feature interview with Anson Funderburgh. We have eight Blues music reviews for you this week including Set 9 of the Matchbox Bluemaster vintage Blues series plus new music from Shelton Powe, Laura Tate, Alex Lopez, Paddy Smith, Dave Keyes, Rita Engedalen and Ralli Rock. Scroll down and check it out!

 From The Editor’s Desk 

Hey Blues Fans,

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It is a perfect way to promote that special Blues event or new album release this year. But HURRY this offer ends January 15, 2023!

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Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser


Instead of our normal Combo Ad package which includes 4 issues of Blues Blast Magazine and a month on our website for $450, our Fall Advertising Special gets you ads in six issues of Blues Blast Magazine and ads for 6 weeks on our website for the same price. Ads can be run anytime between now and October 30, 2023 for your 2023 Blues festival, album release or other music related product.

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Blues Blast Magazine is a great way to promote the Blues and this package can add significant impact to your Blues advertising campaign. Use it to promote a new album, get gigs, advertise upcoming tour dates and important festivals. More than 45,000 Blues fan subscribers read our magazine each week. They are located in all 50 states and in more than 90 countries. Our website gets more than 75,000 visitors each month.

Normal 2023 ad rates start at $175 per issue in the magazine and $175 per month for website side banner ads. Grab his great advertising package NOW! Offer ends January 15, 2023.

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 Featured Interview – Anson Funderburgh 

image“I grew up in a time when if you couldn’t make people dance and they weren’t having fun you weren’t doing anything.”

At it’s core Blues is dance music. The physical release and communal synergy of people moving in time. People of all different identities and nationalities have latched onto this and made it their own.

Anson Funderburgh, the enduring Bluesman, understands this on a visceral, almost molecular, level. Driving his longtime band, the Rockets, with his inimitable guitar sound, Anson has a disciplined commitment to playing the riff, the hook of a song, which propels dancers into each other’s arms. Not as flashy or out front as contemporaries such as Duke Robillard, Ronnie Earl or Jimmie Vaughan, all of whom he mentions with great admiration, Anson is instead the song guy, the vibe guy. He is the man who builds up his bandmates and shines the spotlight on the Blues as a living breathing community event. Anson’s musical brain was stamped early by the shuffle of his native Dallas Texas.

“When I first started playin’ music,” he recounts, “there was a dance here called the North Texas Push. It’s a combination of the jitterbug and the lindyhop. These people they dance to these songs, to shuffles that were about 120 beats per minute. You know the (starts humming the classic chugging shuffle) ta-dun ta-dun ta-dun ta-dun. Shuffles, people loved ‘em and they danced to ‘em. That’s what really got my attention, I loved to see those people dance to our music. It just always stuck.”

Anson came to prominence at one of the most vibrant times for Blues in large scale popularity, from the mid 1970’s to the early 90’s. Unlike the mostly regional popularity of the Blues in the early 20th Century, real deal Blues artists such as Funderburgh benefited from the international explosion of Rock and Roll. The British Invasion and Southern Rock gave the real Blues new vigor.

“The key back then,” Anson reminisces, “all those great bands were students of and played every kinda Blues. When it was a guitar song it was a guitar song. When it was a harmonica song we knew how to handle that. It was a cool time.”

The thing about Anson’s genius is that he keeps his music controlled and presses every bit of his creativity into the moment. Although Anson has occasionally sung over the years, he is not a vocalist. He is the great collaborator and partner, at times playing the leading man and at times the sidekick. Effortlessly moving between.

Taking his roots in North Texas Dance music and pairing it with the breadth of Blues knowledge now popularly available, Anson was able to succeed as a non-singing band leader guitarist in the vibrant Dallas music scene of the mid-70’s. Finding like-minded students of the Blues, Anson began to build what would be his lifetime’s work of connections and relationships. During this fertile time, Anson met his first great collaborator/front-man, Darrell Nulisch.

“Darrel and I were together from 1978 to 1986. I met Darrell from a friend of mine that’s no longer with us, Charley Wirz. He owned a guitar shop here called Charley’s Guitar Shop, he also started that Greater Southwest Guitar Show now called the Dallas International Guitar Festival.”

“I can’t remember the name of Darrel’s band at the time. But anyway that band kinda fell apart and we started doing Monday nights at Poor David’s in Dallas. That was in 1978 and that’s how we started the Rockets. I had a guy by the name of David Watson playing drums who was Doyle Bramhall’s nephew. And a guy named Mark Hickman. And then I eventually hired a piano player who I met in New Orleans, named Doug Rynack who’s on those first 2 Rockets records.”

Anson and Darrell created the blueprint that would guide the Rockets for 4 decades. A soulful, big voiced harmonica wielding singer and Anson’s wide open toned Blues dance parties. The Rockets released their seminal first 2 records Talk to You By Hand and She Knocks Me Out. Hustling all over the country, this early Rockets crew would get bookings in a city for a weekend, Thursday through Saturday or even sometimes Sunday. To promote record sales “we’d play what were called in-stores.”

Anson explains, “we’d go and set up and play for 30 minutes to an hour and try to get people to buy or records in record stores.” It was during one of these stints that Anson’s music and life would change forever by a new friendship.

“The old version of the Rockets played for the first time in Jackson, Mississippi at a place called George Street Grocery. We did an in-store at a place called BeBop Records and a guy named Pete Cushning came in. He came up to me after the performance and he said “man, I love that song “My Love Is Here to Stay.” I work with the guy who wrote that song.” I said “Really? You work with Sam Myers?” I didn’t even know Sam was still alive.”

“Pete brought Sam out that night. Got to meet Sam and he got up and played with us. It was awesome, I mean it was just great. All of us became really good friends with him.”

Mississippi native, Sam Myers was a singer of great passion and conviction, a bellowing harp player, a skilled songwriter and a drummer. Having contracted juvenile cataracts at the age of 7, he was legally blind. Having a great talent for music he won a scholarship to the American Musical Conservatory in Chicago where throughout the 50’s and 60’s he became a go to drummer on the Blues scene, having served as Elmore James’ drummer for over a decade. With a major hit on his tune “Sleeping in the Ground,” by the 80’s Sam was an established act based back in Mississippi.

ImageAnson, being the committed Blues devotee that he was and still is, was enamored with working with this living legend.

“I had started talking to Hammond Scott (co-founder of Black Top Records, Anson’s label),” Anson recalls saying, “you ought to make a record with Sam Myers. Hammond said “well does he have a band?” I said well I don’t know but we could back him up.”

The resulting 1984 masterpiece My Love Is Here To Stay is a high water mark in the 80’s Blues catalog. Collaborating for the first time, Sam and Anson launched a 2 decade partnership.

“That record turned out great,” Anson, a very modest man, rightly boasts. “Sam, he sang so wonderful on it and he played the harmonica so great, it was so big.”

“I made it a little bit different so it wasn’t just a Rockets record. I hand picked a few people that I felt would make it different but make it great. I used to think to myself: man, Sam this guy he’s the real deal he’s an old guy. You know, man, he was only 48 years old when we made that record. I thought he was the oldest thing I’d ever seen.”

“After we made that record we started taking Sam and doing some special shows. We had played the San Francisco Blues festivals and some bigger shows like that with Darrell and Sam, just havin’ him as a guest. It gave us a way to promote 3 different records. We could sell the 2 Rockets records and then we could sell that record too.”

After 8 years on the road grinding it out, Darrell Nulisch was ready for a change. The Rockets formula had been set so the natural next step for Anson was to reach out to his new friend.

“You know man, when Darrell left the band in ‘86 I just called Sam and asked if he’d be interested in join up with us. He said of course. He moved to Dallas from Jackson and he was in Dallas till he passed away in 2006. So he was with me 20 years and Darrel was with me for 8 years.”

Just like that, the Rockets seamlessly transitioned. Nulisch went on to a fruitful and remarkable career. And Anson and Sam moved forward to define and refine their music into some of the most influential and effective Blues music of modern times. Sam and Anson became family, brothers in arms, writing songs together and crafting a body of work that ruggedly stands the test of time. They developed a process and mixed often long forgotten Blues covers with roiling originals.

“Most of the time we did half and half,” Anson remarks about their cover to original mix on albums. “Usually we’d do some older obscure songs. Then we wrote songs too. Sam might have an idea and then I’d put a little part to it, make it sound a little different then the same old stuff. Then we’d rearrange the vocals, mess around with it with a tape recorder. Put the verses in some kind of an order where they made sense. Yeah we worked really hard to make the originals sound different and not just like the songs we were covering.”

Sam Myers and Anson Funderburgh are a legendary team. The 2 men found a common ground and a brotherly love that endures and held them fast as Sam suffered from throat cancer and passed in 2006.

“We were a pretty good team man. He was like family to me. We’d be off the road and we’d come to my mom and dad’s house on Sundays and eat lunch. Sam loved my parents. It was a pretty happy little deal. Not to say we didn’t have moments, we didn’t agree on everything. But you know what I’m saying, (chuckling) you don’t always agree with your relatives but somehow you manage to get through Thanksgivin’.”

Sam Myers was a character. An enormous personality and physically imposing, Sam filled up the room. Anson was, at times, the perennial younger brother goading Myers and keeping him on his toes.

“He’d just make up words,” Anson mischievously reminisces. “I’d always tease him about the words he’d come up with and he’d always call me a mother-expletive, can’t print that, but ya know. He’d say “Man, you’ve pissed me off to the highest degree of piss-tivity.” Boy he dressed in those suits, he looked good. He liked being Sam Myers and that’s good man. I miss those days, I do.”

Anson has produced all of his Rocket records. Perhaps embolden by his work on My Love Is Here To Stay, Anson has developed over the years into a empathetic and effective producer. Working with artists such as Jose Ramirez, Andy T and Alabama Mike, Breezy Radio and many others, Anson is an accomplished producing force in the Blues industry. A producer’s job is sometimes hard to define. Anson, true to form, keeps it simple, respectful and soulful.

“I like to try and get people relaxed. I try to not change them a whole lot. People have their own ideas and everybody has their own personality playin’. You figure that people who have played for 20-30 years they have their own styles and their own personality. Each personality is what it takes to make good records, I think. So I kinda let people be themselves and I try to keep ‘em relaxed and not tense. I like to make live sounding records with a lot of room mics and things.”

Anson has a formidable Rolodex of contacts. Being an industry lifer and one of the most gracious people you could hope to meet, Anson has many trusted compatriots he brings to his production jobs.

“I have people I really trust in the studio and they bring their own thing to a project,” Anson says while describing ace keyboardist Jim Pugh who he uses extensively. “When I use the guys I like to use, I mean shit they play it 1 time and 1 or 2 takes and it’s a done deal.”

Anson describes his influence on a project.

image“I have my own style and my own thoughts and I’ll share ‘em with people if I think we’re gettin’ way off track. But I really want people to be themselves. I think that’s important.”

But, recording can be dicey. It’s hard to recreate music such as the Blues in the sometimes antiseptic recording studio. The Blues are about interaction, connection and especially spontaneity. But sometimes the artist gets stuck.

“If something gets just completely crazy I might say I don’t think it’s gonna work. Let’s come back and try it tomorrow. I try to keep us moving forward and not have people get down. You can work on a song till you work the life out of it. In the music we’re talkin’ about you want it to be very spontaneous. Sometimes if you play something 15 times it’s not as spontaneous as it should be. I just try to keep us from wasting time, keep us focused and keep us out of the ditch. Keep us from being stuck in the mud somewhere.”

In addition to his work as producer, in the past decade or so, Anson has also reveled in another roll outside the Rockets: hired gun. Being one of the preeminent Blues guitarist in the world, Anson has lent his six string prowess to many projects.

“I feel like I’ve worked for a lot of different people and not just the Rockets anymore,” Anson describes, “I’ve had to do different things. It’s all related to what I do, it’s just me doin’ something a little different.”

One of Anson’s most interesting and seemingly incongruous collaborators has been Eric Lindell. With influences that range through Funk, Soul, Punk, Folk and Blues, New Orleans based Lindell is the epitome of the modern day genre defying artist. Recently touring as just a duo, the 2 musicians met in 2012 on the Delbert McClinton Sandy Beaches Tour.

“Eric and I are just really good friends. I feel like he’s helped me grow as a musician playin’ with him the last 10-12 years whatever it’s been. I played on one of his records, Matters of the Heart. I was always worried about playing on his stuff. I told him “you know I didn’t want to do this but I’ll just try and see if it’s something you can use. Because I’m more of a Blues player, your songs are a little bit more like Delbert’s. It’s a little different then what I’m used to playin’.” He said “that’s what I want, I want your sound on my stuff.” So that’s kinda what we do and man it’s been a blast.”

Anson Funderburgh is a calm, affable man. Unassuming, gracious with his compliments and modest, Anson ended our conversation with a request: “Well man just make me look good in the eyes of the public. I’m a hillbilly, man. Bucky, I’ll love yah for it.”

Anson doesn’t need anyone to make him look good. By disregarding the ego that can at times tarnish an artist’s work, Anson has built a monumental legacy of music and integrity. It is his nature and his gift to be open and collaborative. It seems effortless and clearly Anson couldn’t do it any other way. By constantly serving the music he has elevated his collaborators and has kept his loyal audience dancing and having fun.

“I don’t know, we didn’t have any kind of a plan or anything. We just did it, you know? It just kinda happened. Man, we had a lot of fun.”

Anson Funderburgh is back on the road with various shows. Check out his schedule of performances here:

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 – 1 of 8 

imageMatchbox Bluesmaster Series Set 9 – Jack of Diamonds

Saydisc Records

6 CDs of 14, 16, 18, 12, 19 and 22 tracks respectively

This is Set 9 of the old Matchbox Bluesmaster Series. These six CDs (taken from 6 LPs) of the Library of Congress Series were originally released during the 1970s as part of a joint venture between Flyright Records and Saydisc Records. The recordings were made in the field between 1934 and 1943 on portable 78rpm lacquer disc cutting machines and then sat for about 30 years in the Library of Congress before being issued on LP in the 1970s. Many of the fragile records deteriorated and the music recorded on those discs is an attempt to preserve that music. They are preserving the history of the blues for posterity. Some of the performances are marvelous and come from unknown and previously unrecorded artists; some these musicians were in state penitentiary farms; those are captured on discs 5 and 6.

Disc 1 is Mississippi River Blues, recorded in Natchez. Artists here are Lucious Curtis (guitar), Willie Ford (guitar), John Lomax (narration) and George Boldwin. There are lots of great fingerpicking blues on this disc and it exemplifies Delta blues of the era.

Disc number 2 is Fort Valley Blues and was done in Georgia. Allison Mathis, Jessie Stroller (harmonica), Buster “Buzz” Ezell, Buster Brown, Gus Gibson, Charles Ellis, Sonny Chestain, James Sneed, J.F. Duffy (guitar), and Alvin Sanders (guitar) appear on this CD. The sound here is more of the Piedmont style of blues with a distinct folky feel. We get some piano and harp added here and there, too, and the tempos are generally a little more upbeat.

The third CD is Out in the Cold Again, recorded in Florida as was the next CD. Gabriel Brown (guitar), Rochelle French (guitar), and John French are captured here. The style is a little different than the Piedmont, with perhaps some stylistic resemblance to Delta blues mixed in.

Volume 4 is Boot That Thing. The musicians on this volume are Booker T. Sapps, Roger Matthews, and Willy Flowers. More Florida Blues are presented here. Lots of hot harp work here, and much closer to the folky Piedmont style than the prior disc. Hot tempos and more danceable tunes appear here.

The fifth Volume is Two White Horses Standin’ In Line and was it recorded in Texas. Here we have Ace Johnson, L.W. Gooden (guitar), Jesse Lockett, Smith Casey, Roger Gill, Wallace Chains, Sylvester Jones (guitar), Richard L. Lewis, Wilbert Gilliam (guitar), Hattie Ellis, and “Cowboy” Jack Ramsey (guitar). The Texas style of blues is quite evident here, with a little swing, harp and guitar done at times vibrantly. There are some tunes that hearken to work songs, too, similar to what Leadbelly did.

The sixth CD is Jack O’ Diamonds. Also recorded in Texas, this volume is Pete Harris, Tricky Sam, Augustus “Track Horse” Haggerty, Jack Johnson, Little Brother, A. Haggerty and John Lomax doing some narration. There is more upbeat and interesting Texas blues here, especially the latter half of the disc.

With now nine releases, there are 54 CDs in the Matchbox Bluesmaster Series that recapture the blues and roots music from their earliest recordings. Saydisc and the folks at Bluesmaster have created a great archival set of music for fans and collectors to assemble and listen 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 – 2 of 8 

imageShelton Powe

Music Naker Foundation

14 tracks

Shelton Powe grew up listening to music while surrounded by gifted musicians but never did much himself until his parents passed away in the 1980s. He picked up a guitar in tribute to his mother and began learning the music of his youth. Born in 1957 to a devout Baptist family, hs Gospel roots run deep. He hooked up wit Music Maker in 1997 and wound up recording Carolina Blues and Gospel. His Piedmont blues style is authentic and cool and his new self-titled solo acoustic release is powerful and well done.

He gets things rolling with the free wheeling cut “Amtrak Train,” with some nice finger-picking and down home vocals. “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad” is an up tempo traditional piece about a having the blues; the guitar contrasts with he lyrics, lifting the listener despite Powe’s blues. Next is “Salt Peanuts,” a cut with dobro about those salty nuts. “Since I Laid My Burden Down” is another nice traditional arrangement. “She Don’t Care About Me (Bit She Love That Cocaine)” is original and it’s a rollicking piece about a woman with issues. The traditional “Give Me Two wings” follows with a somber delivery. “One Dime Blues” is more upbeat and it’s another nice instrumental rearrangement.

“Shake ‘Em On Down” is another nice original dobro piece. Next up is another original “Take A Walk In The Park” where Powe  opens with a long instrumental lead in. The traditional “Where Shall I Be” is next, another well done cover. “What You Gonna Do When Your Trouble Gets Like Mine” follows, another nice original. “Take Me Back” is the final original and it’s another well done song. He concludes with two covers, “Rock Of Ages” and “Railroad Bill,” super sacred and secular pieces. The former is done in a bouncy manner and the latter continues in a similar manner as an instrumental that follows the tempo and form of how he covers “Rock Of Ages.”

All in all, this is a sweet acoustic album with some well done guitar work and solid vocals. This is the 55th release in the Music Maker Listener’s Circle and it afforded Powe the opportunity to deliver some fine originals and traditional arrangements. If you are a Piedmont acoustic blues fan, this one is for you.

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 8 

imageLaura Tate – Smokey Tango

Blue Heart Records

12 songs – 49 minutes

El Paso-based Laura Tate is a Texan born and bred, who is blessed with a voice and soul as varied, dynamic and distinctive as her home state. Smokey Tango is her sixth CD and is a very impressive demonstration of her jazz/soul/blues abilities.

Backed by a crack band, featuring Richard Millsap on drums, Billy Watts on guitar, Terry Wilson on bass, guitars, percussion, strings and Wurlitzer (Wilson also produced, engineered and mastered the album), Jeff Paris on piano, Wurlitzer, guitar, percussion and mandolin, Paulie Cerra on saxophone and horn arrangements, Darrell Leonard on trumpets and horn arrangements, Teresa James on piano and backing vocals and Lucy Wilson on backing vocals, Tate’s sultry, wry, knowing vocals flow over the music like liquid honey.

It was Wilson’s idea to produce a jazzy blues record with a New Orleans flair, and Tate is the ideal front person for such a project.

Opening with the Neville Brothers’ classic, “Yellow Moon” is certainly a ballsy move, given the otherworldly genius of the original, but Tate smartly chooses to adopt a wholly different, almost soul/jazz approach that nicely foreshadows the rest of the album. This is grown-up music, played with authority and no little emotional commitment.

In addition to “Yellow Moon”, we have Allen Toussaint’s classic “A Certain Girl”, re-imagined as “A Certain Guy”, Texan songwriter Danny Everitt’s “I Heard A Rumor” (with just a hint of disco added to the musical gumbo) and “Lover’s Game”, all sitting comfortably alongside Andy Fairweather Low’s “Champagne Melody”, Stephen Bruton’s “Against My Will” and the Terry Wilson/Teresa James original, “Rougarou”. “School Boy Love”, written by Wilson and Gregg Sutton, has a charming mid-80s feel to it and an earworm of a chorus. Mel Harker’s title track, by contrast, is about as jazzy as this album gets. By far the most left field track, however, is the smoky, late-night funk-jazz re-envisaging of Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water” (yes, that “Smoke On The Water”). Even more bizarre, it works perfectly in the context of Smokey Tango, emphasizing yet again just what can be accomplished with a bunch of top drawer musicians and a little imagination.

The album was recorded at Jesi-Lu Recording Studio, Canyon Country, CA, Jeff’s Garge, Studio City, CA, and Mystic Mountain Studios, Saugus, CA, and Wilson has succeeded in capturing an excellent “late night” sound that fits the music perfectly.

Smokey Tango is not an album of raucous fury or wild pyrotechnic solos. Rather, it focuses on the songs and on the superb vocals. But it is none the worse for that. This is a really enjoyable album. If Delbert McClinton were to record a jazzy blues album with his country music influences replaced with a dash of New Orleans, it would sound not dissimilar to Smokey Tango.

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 – 4 of 8 

imageAlex Lopez – Nasty Crime

On Maremil Music and Records

11 songs, 43 minutes

An album titled Nasty Crime seems like it would be a pretty down and dirty Blues record. Not the case for Florida based Blues Rocker Alex Lopez’s sixth album. Apparently the only crime Lopez commits is being a solid guitarist, a sincere songwriter and a bit of an optimist. The slickly produced Nasty Crime comes in with 11 Blues adjacent Classic Rock tunes that run the gamut from power ballad to shit-kicking stomper.

Alex Lopez has a tight backing band called the Xpress. Kenny Hoye stabs the music with keyboard jolts. Steve Roberts lays in fat bass with Kana Leimbach keeping the grooves tight and rock solid. Nasty Crime is a Lopez showcase though. Singing with a shouting tenor somewhere around Steve Windwood altitude, Lopez is full of passion. Multi-tracking layers of guitars, sometimes in unison, sometimes sliding, sometimes just chugging with reckless abandon, Lopez shows off his various instrumental sides.

The 1-2 opening punches of “World on Fire” and “Just Wait” set a crunchy high energy pace. Both songs deal with observations about the difficult times we are living through. But, Lopez pushes back with defiance in the face of negativity. The first specifically Blues number “When the Sun Goes Down” swings and wobbles with more of a rocker’s touch. Think more David Lee Roth then say Eric Clapton. The title track is a big punchy bit of Funk Rock that Lopez surfs over with some jive talk while closer “That’s Alright” has an extended outro solo that scorches.

In the center of the album is a solo acoustic performance titled “The First Time.” This love song is more Classic Rock acoustic, think Mr. Big, then Delta Blues acoustic. Lopez sings with a tenderness not always permissible in his more raved up tunes. With some tasty passing chords and a cool melody flipping bridge, this tune is a great cathartic pause in the middle of a big sounding record.

Alex Lopez is a great musician. He is clearly well skilled and passionate. Some of his songwriting is a little too plain spoken, allowing for some platitudes to creep in. However, it is clear why Lopez has built a solid career over 6 albums. Co-produced by George Harris whose credits include Cheap Trick and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, Nasty Crime is a strong outing and well worth a listen for those of us who want our Blues to have a bit of a classic 80’s Rock edge.

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 8 

imagePaddy Smith –
The Devil’s Backyard

Self-Release – 2022

9 tracks; 29 minutes

Paddy Smith is a singer/harmonica player from Ireland and this is his second album, albeit rather more an EP in length. Inspired by the Rolling Stones, Paddy started on the harp at just 12 years of age. His life was sent into a spin when he lost his daughter Clara at just 17 to cystic fibrosis. After the inevitable aftermath of such a tragedy Paddy turned to music as a solace and a debut album was released in 2013, followed by a 4-track EP in 2016. This release also reflects some of the life-changing events that he has been through. Recorded in Dublin with some of Ireland’s best musicians, Paddy wrote seven tunes and there are two covers. The band is Paddy on harp and vocals, Danny Tobin on guitar, James Delaney on keys, John Kearns on bass and Jason Duffy on drums.

The album opens with a pair of tracks written by Paddy, Danny and Robbie McDonnell. The title track is a brooding account of difficult relationships with suitably mournful harp: “I met my love in the Devil’s backyard, she ripped out my heart and tore it apart”. “Gambling Blues” has strong guitar work alongside Paddy’s harp and tough vocals as Paddy confesses to a habit which is bound to end in disappointment. Paddy and Danny wrote the next two cuts, “Rebel Blues” being an uptempo instrumental with an opening feature for guitar before Paddy gets stuck into some strong harp work; “My Girl” is a gentler tune with lyrics about a girl with problems, an addiction that places her at serious risk, Paddy trying and failing to get her into treatment, the Devil again referenced here. Musically the tune features the keys and Paddy concentrates on the vocals, one of just two tunes here with no harp.

The pace quickens for a solid cover of “Next Time You See Me”, written by Earl Forest and Bill Harvey for a Junior Parker single on Duke back in 1957. Junior’s original had horns but the combination of Danny’s fretwork and Paddy’s harp works just fine. Two more songs written by Paddy, Danny and Robbie follow: “NYC” references Paddy’s time in the States but has an odd mix, the vocals being rather indistinct against the ringing guitars and keys; in sharp contrast, “Packed And Gone” is a very clear, bright and breezy shuffle with jazzy guitar and bass behind Paddy’s vocal about heading out on tour.

The last two tracks seem to be about the tragedy of Paddy’s daughter’s passing. The choice of Charlie Musselwhite’s “Sanctuary” is telling, with more mournful harp and the haunting lyrics about death, “where I shall find my sanctuary”. Paddy’s singing here is almost semi-spoken, reinforcing the feeling of the song. Paddy’s own song about Clara is entitled “An Angel All Along” and is a short piece of Americana with acoustic guitar and piano.

Paddy proves to be a versatile harp player and the songs here mostly work very well. He is ably supported by his band and it is a pretty listenable disc.

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.

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

imageDave Keyes – Rhythm Blues & Boogie

Blue Heart Records BHR 037

10 songs – 49 minutes

One of the busiest pianists in the world since winning the International Blues Challenge in 2000, Dave Keyes has been touring giants for the past 30 years but shines like a diamond every time he puts out an album of his own. And that’s the case with this disc – the sixth in his catalog, which delivers a big tip of the hat to his musical influences across the music spectrum.

Most visible across the past decade because of his partnership with Popa Chubby, Keyes – his highly appropriate birth name – has worked regularly with ‘60s folk-blues giant/Civil Rights icon Odetta, Bo Diddley, rockabilly firebrand Sleepy LaBeef, gospel great Marie Knight and Ronnie Spector in addition to handling sideman duties with Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater, Big Jay McNeely, Ruth Brown, Lou Rawls and a host of others. He also spent years on Broadway, including six years in the Grammy-winning Smokey Joe’s Café at the height of its lengthy run.

Dave’s heroes include Dr. John, Professor Longhair, Dr. John and Johnnie Johnson, and their influence comes through loud and clear in this  set. Recorded at Teaneck Sound in New Jersey, Chubbyland Laboratories in Hudson Valley, N.Y., Memphis Magnetic Recording in Tennessee and House of Putnam in New York City, it includes nine originals with old-school appeal and a single cover.

Alternating between piano, B-3 and Wurlitzer organ and accordion and providing vocals throughout, he’s aided by guitarist John Putnam, bassist Jeff Anderson and the late David J. Keyes (no relation) and drummers Bernard “Pretty” Purdie and Frank Pagano. Chubby, Doug MacLeod and Early Times all make guest appearances on six-string along with Chris Eminizer and Tim Quimette who sit in on sax and trumpet.

“Shake Shake Shake” kicks things off in style. It’s Memphis blues that preaches moving your feet and clapping your hands when troubles haunt you. It’s propelled by a steady shuffle from Purdie, who’s the most recorded percussionist of all time, and steady horn runs from Eminizer, both of which provide perfect accents to Keyes’ double-fisted attack on the ivories. The feel continues in “That’s What the Blues Are For,” a complaint about a lady who’s forced the singer to walk out the door.

“Blues and Boogie,” a stop-time pleaser that swings from the hip, features Early on six-string a shout-out chorus and steady horn flourishes before yielding to a cover of Willie Nelson’s familiar “Funny How Time Slips Away.” Delivered solo as a ballad and with plenty of passion, Keyes shines on the mic and 88s. But the mood brightens quickly as Purdie kicks off “Ain’t Doing That No More” with a Big Easy second-line beat and Dave announces he’s done with romantic blunders. The chorus is guaranteed to have you singing along.

Keyes’ determination continues in the soulful “Ain’t Going Down” despite pain and disillusion before  another solo effort, “WBGO Boogie,” delivers a tip of the fedora to a jazz/blues station based in Newark, N.J. Romantic problems resurface in “Not Fighting Anymore,” which is delivered with a Latin beat, before MacLeod joins in “Invisible Man,” a lament about aging. The disc closes with “7 O’Clock Somewhere,” a tribute to the doctors, nurses and emergency workers who’ve toiled so tirelessly in the face of the COVID epidemic.

Rollicking fun from beginning to end, and sure to strike a positive chord with anyone who likes keyboard with good-time appeal.

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. Now based out of Charlotte, N.C., his first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8 

imageRita Engedalen –
Sun Will Come

Bluestown Records

11 tracks

Rita Engedaeln is a Norwegian singer, songwriter and guitar player. She draws her inspiration from Mississippi Blues and American Roots Music. Here website lists this as her ninth album since 2004. Her work has received many an accolade in her home country, Scandinavia, and Europe, and she has toured the US on occasion. All the songs here are originals except for “Black Cat Bone,” the classic Jessie Mae Hemphill tune. She appears here both solo and with her band Morten Omlid (electric guitar), Eskil Aasland (drums) and Bård Gunnar Moe (bass).

The solo cut “Let’s Go Down and Pray” starts the album. It has an almost Native America feel in it’s delivery as Rita sings, howls and picks with feeling. “Sunshine Devil” offers a bigger sound with the band and backing vocals and percussive support. A big electric guitar solo is featured here along with a driving beat and forceful vocals. “God Will Watch” turns the heat down a bit; it’s a bouncy and simpler tune with Rita upfront and the band in support. It’s got a western feel to the tempo, electric guitar and delivery. Some gritty harp gets added to the driving “I Wanna Feel Good Tonight.” It’s a rocking blues that gets your toe tapping.

“I am Changed” is next, a solemn and dream-like piece. Some very cool trumpet helps set the mood and tone here.  Well done! Next is the title track. This is a solo acoustic cut that hearkens tot eh Mississippi Delta. The lone cover “Black Cat Bone” opens with dobro and features two acoustic guitars and acoustic bass. It’s got a great rootsy feel to it with some sweet finger picking.

“North Mississippi Blues” follows, a driving cut with Engedalen and the band delivering a forceful performance. “The Right Hand” slows the pace down and adds some backing vocalists and Hammond organ. It’s got a spiritual sound to it as does the next cut, “Colors In Rain.” This cut featurea Rita and Tuva Syvertsen and Margit Bakken singing with her in a very traditional cut. The album concludes with  “Wait For Me,” an ethereal blues done by Engedaelen and the band.

This is an interesting album. Engedalen’s blues are raw and offer up her take on the music of the music of the Mississippi Delta. If you are up for traditional blues in a slightly untraditional interpretation, then check this out.

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 – 8 of 8 

IMAGERalli Rock – Locked Up and Blue?

ContraMusik Produktion (Germany)

CD: 13 Songs, 50 Minutes

Styles: Guitar Monster Blues, Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, All Original Songs, Solo Album

Happy New Year, everyone! I’m ringing in 2023 with Germany’s Ralli Rock and his new album, Locked Up and Blue? The title has a question mark, but who wouldn’t have the blues during a COVID lockdown? That’s what detained Ralli during a visit to distant relatives in Australia. “What do you do as a musician?” states his press release. “You form a small temporary band with whiskey bootlegger friends, drink wonderful Australian whiskey and imported white wine from Alsace, and work on some outstanding songs.” When he was finally back home, Ralli set about recording these and a few more tracks of his own in a larger studio. Mr. Rock played all of the instruments himself, even though the CD sounds more like it came from a complete band. It boasts 13 songs full of classic hard rock based on the blues. What Ralli lacks in nuance and subtlety, he makes up for in fearless intensity. The lyrics are on the basic side (“A big black heart is what I got. A big black heart is what I got. A big black heart that you cannot stop. A big black heart is what I got,”) but you’ll hardly be able to hear them. This CD is LOUD.

That said, Rock shows surprising depth on instruments that aren’t guitar – most notably the harmonica. Vocally, he sounds like the German version of Tom Petty, whose singing has always been more conversational than tonal. On shredder, he is indeed a “Vicious Beast,” as he proves on the opening number, “Old Laughing Stock.” “Just Because of You” features a lovely acoustic intro. The highlight is a blues rock extravaganza called “(I Know) the Meaning of the Blues,” blending classic fretwork and postmodern angst in equal measure. Purists may say that putting the word “blues” in rock songs doesn’t make them blues songs. They’d be right. However, if they listen closely, they might hear some influence from the latter genre’s masters.

Ralli is a formidable one-man band, playing all guitars, organ, drums and percussion, synth, bass and vocals. His third effort will cure you of any aftereffects of a New Year’s party!

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.

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