Issue 17-37 September 14, 2023

Cover photo © 2023 Jim Hartzell

 In This Issue 

Mark Thompson has our feature interview with Doug Deming. We have ten Blues reviews for you this week including two new releases from GA-20 and two re-releases from Floyd Dixon plus new music from The Drifter Kings, Chickenbone Slim, Mitch Woods, Austin Walkin’ Cane, Jimmy Regal And The Royals and RJ Mischo. Scroll down and check it out!

Blues Blast Music Awards

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 Featured Interview – Doug Deming 

imageIt has been five years since Blues Blast featured Eric Steiner’s interview with guitarist Doug Deming, the Detroit native who has been making a lot of music for more than a decade out of his current home base on Florida’s Gulf Coast. (

As it was for most of the blues music community, Deming has faced plenty of challenges over the recent years. Through it all, he maintained his focus, never wavering in his commitment to his music, and now is justifiably proud of what he and his band, the Jewel Tones, have been able to accomplish.

All of that effort was recognized when the announcement was made for the 2023 Blues Blast Music Award nominations. Doug Deming and the Jewel Tones were nominated in the Live Blues Album and Historical or Vintage Recording categories as well as getting a nod for Blues Band of the Year. Additionally, bass player Andrew Gohman was nominated for Bass Guitarist of the Year.

In 2018, Deming released his long awaited album Complicated Mess, featuring longtime Jewel Tone Gohman on the upright and Fender bass plus a strong list of guests that included Little Charlie Baty, Kim Wilson, Bob Welsh, Sax Gordon, and another Jewel Tone, Madison Slim (Mark Koenig) on harmonica for one track.

Complicated Mess did really well for me. If I remember correctly, we got a Blues Blast nomination in 2019 for Blues Band of the Year. The record got a lot of airplay and debuted at #3 on the Billboard Blues chart. It was just a great experience overall, considering the special guests I had, one being Little Charlie. It was unfortunately a sad scenario that he passed in 2020, so it turned out to be a very lucky thing that we were able to get him on record and get a little studio time together before he passed. The other special guest was Sax Gordon, which laid the groundwork for future stuff with him.

“ I was crazy about Charlie’s style of playing and never missed an opportunity to go see him, finally getting to meet him years ago in Detroit. We talked, and I even inquired about some guitar lessons, which unfortunately never panned out, mostly because of his scheduling. That was a little disappointing to the younger version of me, but then I saw him on the blues cruise many years later. He was somewhat familiar with what I was doing, which was flattering. When he learned that I was running a jam in the Crow’s Nest on the ship, without a whole lot of pleasantries, Charlie just came out and said that he wanted to sit in with me, and nobody else.

“And we went at it. He gave me both barrels through three different tunes on the stage. Kind of scared the heck out of me. When we were done, he came over and shook my hand saying, “There’s no better way to get to know somebody than to play with him.” After that, we were kind of buddies. Later, during a magazine interview, he was asked about up and coming musicians in the blues and jazz worlds. He named three people. I was one, and the other two were Duke Robillard and Joey DeFrancesco, which, to be named in the same group as those guys, was just incredible praise, and beyond flattering.”

Getting Baty to appear on the album was very last minute. Deming got a too-good-to-pass-up offer to record at Big Jon Atkinson’s studio in California, where Big Jon was living at the time. Once he realized that Baty lived an hour from the studio, he saw an opportunity.

“Big John’s studio had all the old 1940s and 50s analog recording gear. I wanted to record on that kind of equipment, basically live in the studio to two track tape. So we set that up and booked everything. And really, somewhat in the last minute, I realized, hey, that’s only about an hour from Charlie’s house. You know, why don’t we see if he wants to be a guest?

“And that’s as much planning as went into that part of it. I didn’t even know what songs to put him on. I picked one of the tunes that I thought he’d be really appropriate on, “You Rascal You,” and then wrote another one specifically for him, which was the instrumental “Captain’s Quarters.” I thought I better write a vehicle  that would put him in his comfort zone, and let him shine.”

imageBaty is one of a number of guitarists that have had a strong influence on Deming’s approach to music. He also lists T-Bone Walker, Robert Lockwood Jr., the aforementioned Duke Robillard, and several others.

“ T Bone Walker, Robert Lockwood Jr., and Bill Jennings are probably the guys that I take the most inspiration from right now. But very early on, Albert King was a fairly big influence. And that was due to my age at the time when Stevie Ray Vaughan was popular, in my younger teen years. Hearing him on the radio, figuring out that he was just emulating Albert King, and tracking it back from there. Then there is Bill Jennings, a blues & jazz guitar player that kind of walked the line on both genres. He worked more on the jazz scene as he recorded a lot with organist Jack McDuff and Willis “Gator” Jackson on tenor saxophone. He also had the occasional stint with Louis Jordan.

“He is not what you call a seminal jazz figure. Most of what he played was blues based and right up my alley,  I fell in love with him when I first heard him and I’m still crazy about his sound and his approach, similar to Tiny Grimes. Both of those guys probably came up out of the Charlie Christian school. Christian was boyhood friends and playing partners with T Bone Walker back in the early, early days. T- Bone and Charlie kind of came up together. One went more jazz, one went more blues, but they were the fathers of both of those.”

When the full force of the pandemic hit, all of the hard-earned momentum built around the release of Complicated Mess, the praise from reviewers, and the subsequent touring schedule was instantly wiped out. As a band leader, Deming felt the weight of figuring out how to generate income for himself and his band.

“As far as the pandemic, I can honestly say it went better for us than most people. Being residents  of Florida, we didn’t close for nearly as long or nearly as hard as most of the other states. It was warm enough to be able to be outside, so we got back to playing something close to normal a little sooner than everybody else.

“I remember my last gig was on St. Pat’s day in March, 2020. We ended up doing the typical live streams that everyone did. It was a way for us to get together, knock the rust off, and keep our heads in the game musically, earn a little bit of money for life’s necessities, and keep us from going crazy. So we did do that a handful of times over the few months we were down before starting to play again. By the end of the year, we were playing semi regularly,  working  enough to survive, whereas a lot of our counterparts up North and, in other areas, be it for weather or due to different socioeconomic, political type issues, were still shut down pretty hard. I really felt bad for them.”

With his gig schedule now filled with plenty of holes, Deming made a pivot to another of his life-long passions, one that he had been nurturing for several years on an informal basis.

“There was absolutely no way for a musician, who depends on people gathering together to listen to his music, to make any money. So I stepped up my charter fishing business. Fishing has always been my second passion. When I was still living in Michigan years ago, I had a fluke opportunity to take the Coast Guard Captain’s course at a very, very discounted rate . Of course, I jumped on it, never really thinking much about it other than it being a good tool to have in the box. Once we made the decision to move down here to Florida, I saw a lot of opportunity to get out on the water and make a little side money.

“I did a little of it over the years, just word of mouth, and friends of friends kind of deal. And, of course, I’ve taken a lot of my musician buddies fishing when they come through town. But when there was no money to be made playing music, I stepped that business up, starting Jewel of The Bay Charters.

“Honestly, it really took off a lot quicker than I expected it to. That carried me through financially in a lot of ways. Again, being in Florida, we can be outside year round. Charter fishing is an outdoor event, small numbers of people. According to the rules and regulations here in Florida at the time, that was an allowed activity. It was one of the few things that people could do socially, so a lot of people wanted to go fishing.

image“It is my second love, something I’ve done really for more of my life than music. I started fishing when I was old enough to pick up a rod, growing up in the Great Lakes area. I’ve kept the business up, but have also had to keep it from growing too fast. It’s still my side hustle, and I don’t want it to overshadow my music career. But fishing is something I enjoy doing. It’s kind of the yin to the yang, I guess, and keeps me connected with nature and that part of what I love about Florida.”

“When people charter, they are looking to get out and have a good time. Most of them have never fished saltwater before. I take joy in seeing their excitement and having them enjoy themselves, It’s not unlike music, you see people enjoying the music you play for them, and I see people getting a real charge out of catching a fish in a scenario they’ve never been in before. I love being on the water, and knowing that I set the scenario up. I had the plan, got the bait, knew where to go to catch fish. I don’t really need to be the guy reeling it in, just being a part of the whole equation is enjoyable for me.”

Earlier this year, Deming decided to release two albums. One would honor the start of his recording career, while the other would capture him live with the current members of the Jewel Tones and a number of celebrated guests. The wisdom of that decision is borne out by both albums being nominated for 2023 Blues Blast Music Awards.

“My first album, Double Down, was on Mighty Tiger Records, a small label. I’ve always owned 100% of the recording rights. I leased the record to them for release and distribution. And the lease agreement that I had said either party could negate this lease contract at any time for any reason. I owe that label a lot. When I was very young and fairly unknown, they gave me a shot and released my record.

“It seemed liked it was time for me to do something else with it, and we were at that point right about 20 years from the initial release date. So I took both the first and second records, Double Down and Falling Through The Cracks, and I re-released them on Blue Bella Records, owned by our good friends Nick and Kate Moss.  I didn’t make any changes to the second record. I just basically needed a way to distribute it, and to have copies to sell from the bandstand and be available through different online distribution points.

“With Double Down, I decided to make a little bigger splash out of it. That idea was sparked when I happened to find an 8mm high definition videocassette recording of the original CD release party for the record from 20 years ago in Royal Oak, Michigan at a club called Fifth Avenue Billiards.

“We set the camcorder up in the corner and just pointed it at the band and let it roll all night. Twenty years later, I was surprised at how much that camcorder picked up. The audio fidelity was not perfect, but pretty darn good. And with a little bit of studio magic, we were able to get four tracks off that live recording to add to the 20th anniversary release of that record.

“The band featured a gentleman I was working with at the time, Greg “Fingers” Taylor, the harmonica player that played so many years with the late Jimmy Buffett. And you know, it’s been 20 years, so your memory kind of drifts and fades. I forgot how great Fingers played that night. Hearing those tracks was a reminder of not only how great he was, but that he was particularly on fire that night. I ‘m really happy that we captured it.”

The live album, Groovin’ At Groove Now, was recorded as part of an annual concert series in Basel, Switzerland, It was years in the making, and not without some sadness. It features the wide range of styles that Deming loves, from traditional Chicago blues to rock ‘n’ roll, and jump blues tunes that swing like crazy.

“Groove Now is run by my good friend Patrick Kaiser, who I met in Florida when he did some vacationing down here. He would follow my band around a bunch,, didn’t let it be known as to who he was and what he did until the very end of one of his month long trips. He introduced himself, saying that he’d love to have me come and play at his concert series. I believe that was in 2018. I told him I’d love to do it and we set the show for 2021. I was surprised that he was booking three years in advance. Patrick’s words to me were, “we Swiss are an efficient people.”

image“One of the special guests for our show was originally slated to be Little Charlie. Charlie’s words to me were, “I would love to do it if I’m still alive in three years”. It was easy to chuckle then, but he did not make it three years, which certainly makes you pause and think about all the thoughts you should be thinking when you chuckle about something like that. Then Covid pushed the show back a year.

“We recorded the band with special guests Terry Hanck, Sax Gordon, and an old friend from Detroit, Bill Heid,  although he’s no longer in Detroit either. Terry’s resume is pretty known by most people in the blues world. Fabulous singer, saxophone player, an all around great guy. I hope people know Gordon for his resume as well, although he seems to work more in Europe than he does in the States. He’s a fabulous musician on saxophone, and as a composer and arranger. Bill was in Detroit when I was there and musically kind of set the bar in that town for a long, long time. Everybody looked up to Bill, as he is an absolutely commanding force on the bandstand. He was an asset in a lot of surprising ways on the live record.

“Of course, being a live record, and being the kind of players we are, the tunes are a little bit longer. We stretch out on the solos. It was recorded in one night, no real overdubs, and no rehearsals. All things considered, I expected it to be good, and get a little bit of attention, but it’s gotten way more airplay than I expected it to get. It’s been on the charts for three months now, and it’s holding its own, and I didn’t expect this with a live record.”

“It’s a really huge honor to be nominated for so many things at the same time. I mean, Band of the Year is the one that floored me, and I’m just as floored right now, nominated alongside some of the best in the business, people that I love and respect. I never thought I’d see the day where I was nominated in the Historical recording category, but here I am. I guess 20 years was the cutoff, so it was eligible and we are honored to be nominated among some real classic recordings.”

The guitarist is very proud of his two band members, and thankful that they are getting what is, in his mind, well-deserved recognition.

“Andrew getting nominated for Bass Player of the Year may be my favorite nomination of all of them because I’ve had a front row seat to witness how hard that guy’s worked for the past 12 years on the upright bass. It was fairly new to him then, and I’ve watched the blood, sweat, and tears over and over and over again. The guy never stands still, he’s always trying to make himself a better player. That is inspiring to me and everybody around him. He’s moved mountains as a musician and that’s hard to do.

‘The thing is that its hard is to be in the category he’s in, with some of the most recorded bass players on the face of the earth. So it’s kind of a David and Goliath category. I hope he realizes that the fact that he’s in the category with those incredibly gifted and well known musicians means he’s in the same club and that he’s being recognized for all those reasons.

“Zack Pomerleau has been with us just over four years. He relocated from Maine to join the band. Zack has become a brother and also works really hard at his craft. When we hired Zack, we knew he played harmonica and a little piano plus some guitar. But we needed a drummer. We worked together with him just playing drums for a year or more, until the pandemic shut down. That caused us to rethink, to reconfigure the band a little bit. We had been working at the time as a quartet. For a lot of reasons, financially being the biggest consideration, we reduced to a trio to really stay alive.

image“During the shutdown, Zack took the time to work out a way to convincingly play Chicago blues harmonica without his hands, where he could play the harmonica on a special rack simultaneously while he plays drums. He makes it look easy. I can only imagine how difficult it really is. Playing drums alone in my mind would be extremely difficult because he’s got four limbs doing independent things. Then to add the harmonica on top of that in terms of not only the mechanics of playing it, but also playing counterpoint rhythms, which basically means he’s got five different rhythms going on his head at the same time.

“I watch the eyes of people at our live shows. At first, they have no idea where the harmonica is coming from. And when they see what’s going on, their eyes get really, really wide, they smile, and they’re kind of in awe. Zack makes it sound like someone’s holding a harmonica mic and really concentrating on just that. It’s quite the feat, done so well and so correctly that you would never think that a person is doing that hands free. “

When he is not playing music or out on a fishing trip, Deming is often helping Claudia, his wife and biggest fan, with her estate sale business. They also love to spend time with their daughter, son-in-law, and two adorable grandchildren. Needless to say they both were quite thrilled when their daughter announced two years ago that her family was moving to Florida, giving the grandparents plenty of opportunities to spend time together with them.

“Family is uber, uber important to me. I haven’t mentioned that because we have been focused on the band, my music, and my career. It would be very appropriate to say I have a number of passions – being outdoors and on the water, making my principal living by playing the music that I love. That said, family comes first.”

All in all, the guitarist is happy with where his life is at this point. Plans for the immediate future include a full length recording of all new original material, as well as a special pet project recording that Doug has been developing for some time.

“Honestly, what’s important to me is to be successful. And in my eyes, what that means is that I achieve the goals that I set for myself musically and in the music business. In a lot of ways I’ve done that. I’ve stayed true to my heart in terms of the music that I play. The traditions of American blues and jazz music are very, very important, and staying true to that is paramount to me.”

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 10 

imageThe Drifter Kings – Devil in My Kitchen

MoMojo Records, 2023

10 Tracks, 42 minutes

The Drifter Kings represented Central Ohio at the 2010 International Blues Challenge, and their latest release demonstrates the talent that sent them all the way to the Semi-Finals.  This is their third album and features all original songs with Christopher Whitney on guitar and vocals, Tony Harp on bass and vocals, and Douglas Oscard on drums and percussion. The songs range from traditional blues to country-blues to blues-rock.  And, with two singers, the album is able to offer a variety of vocal styles too.  It opens with a blues number about how there’s not a damn thing a man won’t do when he really loves a woman, before switching to a country-blues sound for “Bottom Line”.

One of the best tracks on the album is a slow blues number entitled “Tumble Down”, which includes a beautiful guitar solo. Penned by Tony Harp, it emotionally portrays a man trying to salvage a doomed relationship.  “We had a hard road left to travel and we stayed on course for much too, much too long.  It was easy and it was hard, but mostly hard…What was built from bedrock is finally tumbling down.  I tried and I tried from June to May to hold up these walls, you betrayed every day.  I guess I’ll let it all go, let it all tumble down.”

The title track of the album, written by Whitney, utilizes the bass to offer a unique, ominous sound which also incorporates a spoken word technique in an eerie way.  Additionally, it cleverly describes the devil in the kitchen who has “a fearsome appetite, with a dash of fornication and a sprinkling of greed…he wants to have me for dinner, but I think I’m too scared to eat…I’d better change my ways before I’m dead.”  This track again highlights Whitney’s skill on guitar.

The remaining tracks continue to show the diversity of this band’s approach to songwriting, including an acoustic country-blues song, (“Stone’s Throw”), a very catchy rhythm offered in “Fox in the Henhouse”, and a driving drumbeat in the final song, “Orange El Camino”.  This is clearly a talented band, with interesting originals, and their work is presented through a well-mastered CD.  Listeners will likely be inclined to want to see this band perform live after hearing Devil in My Kitchen.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 10 

imageGA-20 – Crackdown

Karma Chief/Colemine Records

10 tracks

GA-20 is one of the top new blues and rock bands on the scene today. This is GA-20’s third big album, following 2019’s Lonely Soul and 2021’s Try It…You Might Like It! GA-20 Does Hound Dog Taylor. Featuring all original music, GA-20 takes the listener on a roller coaster ride of blues and rock and roll. The blues emerges out of the traditional realm, with primal, hill country beats, haunting and howling vocals, and a dirty, distorted and raw guitar sounds that trance-fully lull the listener into their web. One listen and you, too, will be captured by their sound.

GA-20 is the trio of guitarist Matt Stubbs, guitarist and vocalist Pat Faherty, and drummer Tim Carman. Justin Lopes also appears here on organ. Stubbs spent 14 years touring with Charlie Musselwhite. He formed the band in 2018 with Faherty who he met up with in Boston. This power trio is the real deal.

The album kicks off with “Fairweather Friend” with a prominent, driving beat and howling vocals. It’s a great hook and gets the listener interested in what’s about to follow. “Dry Run” follows, a slow and cool cut with Faherty giving us another cool vocal performance as tells his woman he won’t let her “practice” on him. A cool echo-filled guitar solo and sound throughout helps make this fun.

Next up is “Easy On The Eyes” with more howling vocals, raw guitar, a primal beat and lyrics about how his woman is good looking. The title track is next; this cut is an instrumental and  features more of that raw, vibrant guitar laid over the conversational sounds of perhaps a club full of people.  It’s simplistic yet complex and offers the listener an interesting four minute ride in the sounds of GA-20 Land.

“Just Because” hearkens back to 1950’s/early 1960’s rock with a crooning ballad with a soulful vocal performance with gutsy guitar and a driving beat that GA-20 lays down so well. That is followed by “By My Lonesome” with a Beatles-meet-Chuck Berry-esque sort of song and sound updated into the bands’ sound. It’s a fun rock and roller with a huge, slightly distorted and cool sound.

“I Let Someone In” continues the howling vocal assault and a slow and slick distorted lead guitar driving the cut along. Primal vocals and guitar grab the listener’s interest. After that we have “Double Gettin’” that opens with a sweet drum intro and then breaks into perhaps what I’d call GA-20 rockabilly. Cool stuff.

“Gone For Good” is another blues ballad of sorts with more of that stinging and ringing guitar and Faherty’s big, upfront vocals. More very interesting and well-done stuff. The opening tracks gets reprised as a final goodbye, scaled and slowed down into a true farewell to conclude this fine album.

This is a super studio effort with 9 new songs that will tear at the emotions of the listener. I really enjoyed listening and highly recommend this album!

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 10 

imageGA-20 – Live In Loveland

Karma Chief/Colemine Records

11 tracks

With three great studio albums, some EPs and singles out there,  GA-20 has now released a great live recording that is nominated for a Blues Blast Music Award for Best New Live Album. The album features cuts from their latest album and some cool cover tunes. Recorded live on to ¼ inch analog tape, there is an old school vibe to the recording. GA-20 is the trio of Pat Faherty on vocals and guitar, Matthew Stubbs on guitar and Tim Carman on drums. Recorded live in the Plaid Room in Loveland, Ohio, this was one helluva show.

The live recording starts off with Harol Burrage’s Cobra Record hit“ I Cry for You” where the band does a fine job covering the tune to the crowd’s delight. Another fine cover follows, Little Walter’s “My Baby Is Sweeter.” Here we get some dirty guitar solo to savor as the band delivers another great performance. The title track from their first album is next, “Lonely Soul.” A driving beat and a slick sound blends blues and early rock sounds into the GA-20 seminal sound. It’s a lot of fun.

The next three cuts are from their newest studio CD Crackdown. “I Let Someone In” features more fine guitar work and Faherty’s howling vocals. Then it’s “Dry Run,” a slower and ambling tune that again lets Faherty and Stubbs shine. Stinging guitar and emotive vocals make this a great cut. “Double Getting’” is a rockabilly/early rock sounding tune that the band delivers with passion.

Clifton Chenier’s “My Soul” from his Chess release Bayou Blues is next. Transforming New Orleans into their cool sounding vibe of distorted guitar and howling vocals works well, another nice cut. Up next is “Just Because,” a cool ballad culled from the latest album. “Hold It One More Time” is an original track with a 1950’s/1960” rock infused blues done in typical GA-20 fashion: high powered with driving beat and sound with vibrant guitar and impassioned vocals.

“Crackin’ Up” is an old Bo Diddley tune that GA-20 makes their own. The Stones did this song back in the 1960’s and now GA-20 dusts it off and freshens it up in their signature style. They conclude with the wild and jumping “By My Lonesome,” a great rocking tune from their last album. Done in an updated and funky Check Berry style, they lay out some great licks and the band gives it their all. The crowd goes wild as they conclude.

This is a super recording of a really amazing show. GA-20 delivers eleven great performances of their own tunes and some sweet covers. These guys are bringing old school blues back with a great blend of rock and their own distinctive style of play. GA-20 is not for the faint of heart- this is a rocking and hot blues band with some great sounding stuff- don’t miss this one. It is well deserving of an award nomination!

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 10 

imageFloyd Dixon – Fine! Fine! Thing!

Blue Heart Records

12 songs – 46 minutes

Fine! Fine! Thing!, Floyd Dixon’s penultimate release, originally came out in 2005 but has been re-released by Blue Heart Records and what a joy it is to hear it again. Born in 1929 in Marshall, Texas, Dixon is one of the legends of West Coast blues, releasing records in the 1940s and 1950s such as “Telephone Blues” and “Call Operator 210” that helped to define the entire genre. He is perhaps most well-known for “Hey Bartender” after its adoption by The Blues Brothers exposed the song to a wider audience. His influence however has been lasting and formidable.

Backed by a crack band featuring Richard Ross and Stoney Dixon on bass, Hense Powell on Hammond B3, Craig Kimbrough and Johnny Tucker on drums, Tony Matthews on guitar, together with the Ebony Horns (comprising Joe Campbell, Carle Vickers and Bernard Baisden) on a few tracks, Dixon’s piano playing was undiminished by age and his voice – that voice! – still sounded part-Big Joe Turner, part-Charles Brown, and part-hewn from rock as old as time itself.  Candye Kane contributes to the fun, in a duet with Dixon on “Love’s The Key” and adding glorious gospel backing vocals to “My Wish”.

Dixon wrote all the songs, ranging from the swinging “Carmen De Lavalade”, to the instrumental “Cottontail” and the slow blues of “Think About The Good Times”. The band is tight but loose and sound like they are having an absolute blast.

There is something of a relaxed, late-night feel to the recording, as if the listener has just wondered into a dark and smokey bar where Dixon and his cohorts have been playing for several hours already. Perhaps surprisingly, Dixon does not take as many piano solos as one might expect, with Matthews’ warm tone and tasty guitar playing to the fore, often weaving skittish, jazzy, ear-catching single note lines around Dixon’s vocals, such as on “Ain’t That Right” or the tasty opener, “Love Oh Love”. The instrumental “Floyd’s Groove” is all Dixon, however, and is great and his solo on “Everything’s Alright” is a joy.

Recorded at Leon Hayward’s Sunnyside Recording Studios in Los Angeles, the sound quality is excellent, so kudos Bill Dashiell and Bill Dooley for their engineering, mixing and mastering skills.

From traditional, slow blues to upbeat R&B, all with a West Coast sensibility, Dixon created a sound and style that has influenced many but been surpassed by none. Fine! Fine! Thing! is difficult to listen to without a smile on your face and is well-worth repeated plays.

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 – 5 of 10 

imageFloyd Dixon – Time Brings About A Change

Blue Heart Records

17 songs – 77 minutes

Floyd Dixon died at the age of 77 in 2006, just 55 days after recording this live celebration of his music and what a celebration it is. Guitar genius, Kid Ramos, was asked to pull together a backing band at short notice for the event and, boy, did he deliver. Perhaps the best blues rhythm section of the last 50 years, Richard Innes and Larry Taylor from the Hollywood Fats Band, handle the drums and bass respectively. Another Fats alumnus, Fred Kaplan contributes organ to a couple of songs. Ramos’ old bandmate from The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Kim Wilson, adds harmonica to six songs. Troy Jennings, Steve Marsh and Joe Banks are a dream horn section. Guest musicians Pinetop Perkins and Henry Gray sing and play piano on three tracks each. And Johnny Tucker lends his magnificent croak to “Do You Want To Dance?”. Ramos handles the guitar chores with his customary taste, tone and class. Together these stellar musicians display their love and respect for Dixon by providing superb support without ever intruding on the star of the show.

Recorded at the Rhythm Room in Phoenix, Arizona on 01 and 02 June 2006, with pristine engineering by Clarke Rigsby and Aaron Feller of Tempest Recordings and mastering by David Shirl of Sonorous Mastering, Time Brings About A Change was also released as a DVD (which is also an essential purchase, frankly). The crowd are loud and and noisy in their appreciation but never intrude upon the music itself. As one would expect from a live performance, there are plenty of solos (Wilson and Ramos in particular) but rarely for more than a verse or two.

The band comes roaring out of the blocks with a turbo-charged version of Albert Collins’ “Don’t Lose Your Cool” with the horn section absolutely cooking. Gray and Perkins perform well-worn classics like “Sweet Home Chicago”, “Dust My Broom”, “Come Back Baby” and “Down In Mississippi” – perhaps reflecting the limited amount of rehearsal time the musicians had together, but the performances never dip into jam territory. There is a tightness and groove to every performance that one would expect from musicians of this quality.

On the nine songs on which Dixon appears, his voice may crack at times but his piano playing is still strong. And when the band is swinging as these boys do on tracks like “Hole In The Wall” (with a superb solo from Jennings), it’s hard to complain. Dixon mixes well-known covers such as “Caledonia” and “Cold, Cold Feeling” (Ramos channeling T-Bone Walker as only Ramos can) with choice selections from his own back catalogue such as “Call Operator 210”.

Two particular highlights are the title track and the closing track. Who knows if Dixon knew how little time he had left, but the gentle, loving wistfulness of “Time Brings About A Change” and “(So Long) Gee I Hate To See You Go” is almost heartbreaking.

Since this recording, of course, we have sadly lost not only Dixon, but also Perkins, Gray, Innes and Taylor. Time does indeed bring about a change but thanks to records such as Time Brings About A Change, we have magic like this to remind of the genius of those who have passed on.

If you haven’t heard this before, you should do yourself a favour and grab a copy immediately. It’s brilliant.

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 – 6 of 10 

imageChickenbone Slim – Damn Good and Ready

VizzTone Label Group

12 Tracks – 48 minutes

Larry “Chickenbone Slim” Teves drops his fifth album and second for the Vizztone label. Like his previous album, Serve It to Me Hot, Kid Anderson produced the album at his Greaseland Studios. The band consists of Chickenbone Slim on guitar and vocals, Laura Chavez on guitar, Marty Dodson on drums, Justin Guevera on bass, and according to the liner notes “Kid Anderson on “everything else and then some”.  Slim’s website references his backing band’s name as The Biscuits. It should be noted that Laura Chavez became the first woman to win the Best Instrumentalist – Guitar at the 2023 Blues Music Awards in Memphis.

The album consists of twelve original songs and leads off with “High Ballin’ Train”. Slim announces that “My Mama Used to call me her little bull in a china shop. Once I start rolling man I really don’t want to stop”. A you might expect with an opening line like that, you get a powerhouse rocker with a driving drum beat. Next up is the swinging “Let’s Go Lindy” which will take you back to a hop as he notes about his girl “When she hits the floor the girl never wants to stop” and will likely drive you to get up and jitterbug also.  on ” Drink Me” he says “You can’t fight it. I’m What you need”. and has a great guitar run in the middle of the song.

“Rather Be Up” raises a positive note in a bouncy song that says “I’d rather fly up off the ground, see the light shining all around. I’d rather be up than down.” The title song is another all-out rocker as he declares “I’m “Damn Good and Ready” to be loving you”. “Deepest Blue” is a country-styled waltz and remembrance of a lost love that he met a dance when he “might have been all of sweet 16”.

Eric Spaulding guests on sax in a fall back to rock ‘n’ roll song that declares that his woman has a “Rock & Roll Soul” and “When she hears the music she’s drawn to the beat. Ain’t no way to stop her from moving her feet. On ” I’m Buying” he says “Now I’m flush, gonna treat all my friends”. “Hey, how about a round for the whole neighborhood”. Slim warns with some menace “Don’t put “Ice in My Whiskey”. ” I keep my enemies close, I’m loyal to my friends”.

On “Old Cat Man”, he defines the person as “you fly like an angel, you’re the devil when you land”. The song has another great solo run.  “Ty Cobb’s Chiclets” offers a biography of baseball great Ty Cobb.  After painting a picture of a mean individual “known throughout the league as an S.O.B. He sharpened his spikes with a metal file. he was hated and feared, and he never cracked a smile. His headstone was poured extra heavy. They buried him deep to make sure he stayed buried.” But Slim concludes that “He was the first player ever in the Hall of Fame”.

The album concludes with ” I don’t Want to Talk About It”. While you are never sure exactly what “it” is, he leaves no doubts that he wants nothing to do with “it”, not even “to watch a 12-part Hollywood Netflix TV version of it” and a driving guitar just gives emphasis to his dismissal of the whole issue.

This is a fun, rocking album with clever lyrics and enjoyable instrumental runs. But the album strikes me as more of an Amerciana or roots album than a blues album. A few songs may pass as blues rock. This is not a criticism, but just a clarification of the style of music presented to aid your expectations of the album.

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 – 7 of 10 

imageMitch Woods – Friends Along The Way

Club 88 Records – 2023

CD1: 10 tracks; 49 minutes

CD2: 11 tracks; 42 minutes

A stalwart of the Blues Cruise, pianist Mitch Woods clearly has plenty of friends to be able to involve such an amazing list of musicians. This album was originally released in 2017 on a single disc with sixteen tracks, but the label moved its interests away from music and the album was not seriously promoted. Mitch acquired the masters and was determined to re-release it; the reissue includes all the earlier material, plus five additional tracks which did not make it on to the single disc.

The format throughout is either duo or trio performances with Mitch on piano (and occasional vocals), plus guests. The album has three classic numbers featuring Van Morrison and Taj Mahal: Lead Belly’s “Take This Hammer” has a gospel-infused vocal from Van who also sings excellently on Leroy Carr’s “Midnight Hour Blues” while the duo share the vocals on “CC Rider”. Larry Vann adds drums to two tunes recorded with Elvin Bishop, Oliver Perry’s “Keep A Dollar In Your Pocket” and the exciting boogie of Jimmy Liggins’ “Saturday Night Boogie-Woogie Man”; Larry also plays on Kenny Neal’s “Blues Mobile”, with Kenny on vocal, harp and guitar. Other originals include Ruthie Foster’s “Singin’ The Blues” with Mitch’s delicate piano the perfect accompaniment to Ruthie’s emotional vocal and Cyril Neville’s spoken history of the music “The Blues” (a co-write with Taj Mahal). John Hammond’s steel guitar adds a Delta feel to “Mother-In-Law Blues”, Joe Louis Walker’s duet with Mitch on Champion Jack Dupree’s “Nasty Boogie” is a standout and Maria Muldaur does a good impression of Bessie Smith on “Empty Bed Blues”. Charlie Musselwhite appears twice, on harp on Mitch’s “Cryin’ For My Baby” (which bears some resemblance to “Five Long Years”) and on harp, guitar and vocals on the autobiographical “Blues Gave Me A Ride”. Mitch and Marcia Ball have great fun doing duets on both piano and vocals, on Professor Longhair’s “In The Night”.

There are two tracks that must have been recorded some time ago: John Lee Hooker delivers a typical “Never Get Out Of These Blues Alive”; Mitch wrote the exciting “Chicago Express”, a train boogie tune that features James Cotton’s explosive harp style.

The five tracks that were previously unreleased offer second features for five artists. Mitch plays superb NO piano on “Blues For New Orleans” as Cyril Neville emotes about his “heart-breaking dreams” and his concerns for his native city. In “Don’t Dip In My Bizness” Kenny Neal warns people not to interfere, Mitch’s piano and Kenny’s guitar delivering some jagged lines over the steady drums (presumably Larry Van, though not credited). Maria Muldaur sings in a different style to her earlier Bessie Smith number on Mitch’s composition “Mojo Mambo” which again references New Orleans. Two artists deliver covers of older material: John Hammond sings “Southbound Blues”, written by WR Calaway and Clarence Williams, his guitar stylings and Mitch’s piano taking us back to the original version, recorded by Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell in the 1930’s; Joe Louis Walker delivers Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Worried Life Blues” very convincingly, playing acoustic guitar alongside Mitch’s piano and sharing the vocals on the familiar tune which makes an ideal end to the expanded album.

Mitch Woods is definitely a piano master and his wide circle of friends makes this a very enjoyable album.

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer 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 – 8 of 10 

imageAustin Walkin’ Cane — Muscle Shoals

Hoboville – 2023

10 tracks; 40 minutes

Muscle Shoals is Austin Walkin’ Cane’s eighth blues album, and, once again, he teams up with songwriting partner, Chris Allen, for raw honest look into the soul of blues. Five of the album’s ten tracks were recorded at the FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. FAME and The Shoals mystique add to that raw honesty and stoke the gritty intensity that is a trademark of Cane’s blues.

Austin Walkin’ Cane (whose real name is Austin Charanghat) grew up in Rocky River, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, located along the shores of Lake Erie. Chris Allen, a Cleveland-based singer-songwriter, and Cane have been writing songs together since their teenage years. That partnership has resulted in a Blues Music Award nomination along with regional recognition and, prior to COVID, a world-wide touring schedule.

Cane was born with a rare condition that affected his legs, particularly his left leg, making it extremely difficult to walk or run. Cane spent much of his early years being examined by doctors and in treatment at hospitals, so learning to play music became his refuge. The Walkin’ Cane moniker came from a long ago encounter on a New Orleans sidewalk when Cane still used a cane to get around. Cane, who was playing on Bourbon Street, encountered a local homeless man, who shouted out, “Hey walkin’ cane, can you spare some change for a brother?”

The recording session at FAME happened after Cane, scheduled to play a house party in Memphis, learned “that Muscle Shoals was only three hours away.” He booked an afternoon session at FAME, resulting in fifteen acoustic numbers—played live in the famous studio—of Cane and his National Resonator Guitar. The other five tracks on Muscle Shoals were recorded at SPA studios in Canton, Ohio. Don Dixon of SPA mixed and produced those tracks and mastered the entire album.

If there’s a theme running through Muscle Shoals it’s found in both the opening number, “Waiting for a Little Sunshine,” and in the closing song, “Sun Go Down,” a haunting tune in that traditional country blues style. While “Little Sunshine” is melodic—think Mississippi John Hurt—and almost upbeat, after the “rains come down,” Cane pleads with the Almighty to “take these blues away” and there’s hope that things will get better. By the time listeners get to “Sun Go Down,” we’re reminded that each day after a loss can bring more pain and suffering.

On “Midnight Creep,” another tune within that sunshine/sundown theme, Cane shines with his quick picking and slide guitar playing. “One Heart Walkin’,” by far, the strongest song on the album, features a classic blues guitar intro with a mesmerizing refrain. “Sweet Mama Brown” also features another classic intro and showcases Cane’s finger-pickin’ prowess.

Muscle Shoals includes three covers—a great rendition of Bob Dylan’s classic “Highway 61” along with two blues classics—Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground,” and Leroy Carr’s “(In the Evening) When The Sun Goes Down.” Obviously, these two classics fit with the sunshine/sundown theme and Austin Cane’s performance on “In the Evening” is exceptional.

On Austin Walkin’ Cane’s website, there is the tagline Damn Fine Blues. Muscle Shoals showcases Cane’s raw honesty and gritty intensity and is definitely some damn fine blues.

Writer Ken Billett is a freelance writer based in Memphis. He is a Blues Foundation member and former docent/tour guide at the Blues Hall of Fame. Originally from Tampa, Florida, Ken writes about travel, music, and the Mississippi Delta.

 Featured Blues Review – 9 of 10 

imageJimmy Regal And The Royals – First And Last Stop

Lunaria Records

12 songs time – 43:01

A South London based blues-R&B trio. Fun fact-There is no Jimmy Regal, but there are three talented musicians that get along with some outside helpers. Joff Watkins is the lead vocalist, harmonica player extraordinaire and sometime guitarist. He contributes a commanding vocal performance and is a top-of-the-line harmonica player. His harp playing is as aggressive as it is creative. CJ Williams handles guitar, bass and lap steel, while Sammy Samuels is the drummer, percussionist and background vocalist. The songwriting is a product of various configurations of the trio. Their creativity and variety of musical approaches is a thing of wonderment. They intertwine elements of blues, R&B and a touch of classy jazz.

Joff digs right in with his cocksure harmonica magic on “(Got To Make A) New Flame”, backed by rhythmic horns and CJ Williams on guitar. Joff’s slide guitar slithers and glides through the funky “Ain’t Done Yet” backed by the punchy horn section. Kind of a Creedence Clearwater vibe permeates “Can’t Keep Losing You”. Things mellow down easy in the slow and loose “Do Whatever You Can”. Watkin’s slide rides rough shod over a nasty rhythm guitar on “Empty Streets”. “Man, we are losing this town”.

The harmonica blasts over the tricky drum rhythm of “Show Time”. There is more of the same on the title track “The First And Last Stop”. Joff’s harp is faster than a locomotive on the instrumental “Mickey Two Suits”. Chris Rand adds sax to energetic “Bones To Dust”. “Fat Man’s Chicken” plays to a Bo Diddley Beat. “Never put your hand’s on a fat man’s chicken”. Joff is surely no one-trick pony on the harmonica as he goes full Toots Thielmanns on the instrumental “Elmer’s End Blues” that sports a truly lovely melody that could have been taken from a French movie. You really don’t want it to end.

No genre tag needed here. This is just robust music in the hands of masters. The three pieces combined with occasional help deliver a pleasing sound. All the players are excellent, but Joff’s harmonica skills rank up there with the best players of today. Fans of original and nuanced blues and R&B will garner hours of enjoyment here.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 10 of 10 

imageRJ Mischo – RJ Mischo In Finland

Bluebeat Music

12 tracks  – 46 minutes

Robert Joseph “RJ” Mischo is an award-winning and renowned blues singer and harmonica player. Born in Chilton, Wisconsin in 1960, he started playing at age ten and by age 19, he was working as a full-time professional player in the Minneapolis and St. Paul twin cities. Lynwood Slim became his mentor and aided RJ in his growth in playing his instrument. He moved to San Francisco in 1996 to extend his musical career.  RJ has played alongside of many major blues artists including Pinetop Perkins, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Jimmey Thackery and many others.

With this album, the Hohner endorsed musician now has released fourteen albums. He has had two songs reach no. 1 on Sirius/XM”s BB King’s Bluesville station. His 2012 album reached #4 on the Living Blues Radio charts and two of his albums placed in the top 50 of that magazine’s Top 50 in their individual release years.  His music has been used in movie scores, tv ads, and Discovery Channel documentaries. He is also a staff member at Jon Gindick’s Harmonica Jam Camps held in Clarksdale, Mississippi and Ventura, California.

RJ’s professional life has led him to play at many venues and festivals across the U.S. and internationally. That has led to his current album being recorded live in Tomi Leino’s Suprovox Analog Studio in Finland.  The album consists of eleven originals and one cover. RJ Mischo plays harmonica and performs the vocals with Leino’s band backing him. That band consists of Tomi Leino and Jonne Kulluvaara on guitars, Jaska Prepula on bass, and Mikko Peltola on drums.

The album kicks off in rousing fashion with “Everybody”, noting that everyone “has to try more love” and “needs to let their love light shine…to get everybody together”. The guitars carry the lead with RJ’s harmonica not kicking in until the end of the song. Sonny Boy Williamson’s “She Got Next to Me” penned by Rice Miller is the sole cover and is given a nice shuffle beat. “Next, he notes that “everybody is talking and nobody’s listening” and “Everybody’s got “Two Ears and One Mouth” for a reason” so you should “be talking half as much as you are listening”.

He states that “I am gone, “Good Intentions” do nobody wrong.” His harmonica weaves in and out of some fine guitar work on the song. On “Second Wind Two”, he notes that you only find “him when the lights grow dim”. The “Avanto Shuffle” is a harmonica driven instrumental. He advises a woman he met to “Spread Your Hustle”, “you better move right along baby or the world gonna find you out.”, but notes that he met those types of women in multiple cities.

On “She’s Good to Me” he announces “My baby’s good to me. She does not need any diamonds or fancy pearls. So much sugar and so doggone sweet” as the harmonica offers some kissing sounds.  With “Tried To Kill Me #2”, he tells a story that in 1989 he was “shot by a pistol and stabbed by a butcher knife, they tried to kill but it was not my time to die”. But sometimes a tragedy turns into the best of your life, as he ran into a club and met the woman who would become his wife. “No lie”.

On “Don’t Look Down”, he recognizes “I have done way too many shots and way too many last calls” but advises “you just have to keep looking up” and notes “that people in the graveyard are people just like you and me.” “I’m going to work to stay on this side of the ground”. On “Dark Road, City Light”, he speaks of traveling long times and on “a dark road, you never know what you are going to find.” “Come to a fork in the road, can’t tell which way to turn, but either way you have got something to learn.” He concludes the album with a tale of “Going Out to California” and notes that “All my life I have been a traveling man, go to sleep in London, England and wake up in Birmingham”. “Got tired of traveling and hanging my hat from town to town, but I’m going out California where my baby can be found”.

As should be readily apparent from the lines offered above, RJ delivers songs based in humor and offering sage advice all mixed in a traditional blues style. His stories certainly reek of the life he has led and the things he has observed and learned. His ever-present harmonica shuffles in and out of the lines with the band excellently supplementing his sound.

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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