Issue 17-45 November 16, 2023


Cover photo © 2023 Laura Carbone

 In This Issue 

Anita Schlank has our feature interview with Steve Marriner. We have six Blues reviews for you this week including a vinyl 45 rpm Christmas blues record plus new music from Ira Walker, Chris Beard, Big Frank/Mike Smith, Scottie Miller and Al Basile. Scroll down and check it out!


 Featured Interview – Steve Marriner 

imageSteve Marriner seems to be everywhere lately.  Whether it’s joining Canadian Blues-rocker Colin James, playing with his own band, MonkeyJunk, or featured by himself as a solo guest artist, you are likely to see him at major blues festivals, on music cruises, and at the Big Blues Bender.

Marriner is instantly recognizable in Canada, as he has repeatedly won Maple Blues Awards as Harmonica Player of the Year, and his band, MonkeyJunk, won Juno Awards in 2012 and 2018 for Blues Album of the Year.  But his popularity in the United States is also spreading rapidly, and fans want to know more about this extremely talented multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer, who also has a great singing voice.  Blues Blast Magazine had the opportunity to catch up with Marriner in-between his performances at the Big Blues Bender.

Marriner first caught the blues “bug” when he saw the Blues Brothers movie just before his eleventh birthday and came away from the film with a desire to play the harmonica.  He received a harmonica for his next birthday and was fortunate enough to be able to study with Larry “The Bird” Mootham for two years.  Then, when Marriner was fourteen, he won the Ottawa Blues Harp Blow-Off Battle.

“At age twelve I started sitting in with Larry’s band.  It was super fun, and it was the beginning of a very long, deep love affair I have with the blues.  I did a lot of homework, listening to primarily Chicago blues at first.  I researched Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, James Cotton—all the heroes.  I spent my entire teen years listening to blues and playing.”

Marriner’s musical talent is evident not only on the harmonica, but on both acoustic and electric guitar, upright and electric bass, piano, and vocals as well.

“Harmonica was my first love and I really do enjoy playing it, but at some point, I wanted to know how the whole picture worked rather than just one part of it.  I found that learning to play guitar helped me with my understanding of the music.  I never had formal instruction on the other instruments but learned from watching others. For example, I played with Johnny Russell, who was a great piano player, so I watched his hands, and he showed me a bit, and I started to learn a bit about blues piano. And Tony D (Tony Diteodoro from MonkeyJunk) taught me a lifetime worth of guitar.

“I was such a sponge at that time—I wanted to know about everything.  I’ve played with great musicians, and everyone is very generous and happy to share their knowledge. It helps to understand what their role is.  It is like a conductor knowing how to play every instrument.  I believe it also helped my writing.  Learning the other instruments helped my understanding of music as a whole.  Plus, I’ve never been a fan of playing harmonica just because I can.  I like to serve the song.  Just because I can rip harp solos doesn’t mean I should, where they don’t belong, according to me.  Playing various instruments helps me create the music I want to create.”

Marriner has played, and continues to play, with several bands.  In 2000, he began recording and touring with the JW-Jones Blues Band, and from 2004 until 2007 he toured with Harry Manx.  He and Manx released an album together in 2019 titled Hell Bound for Heaven.  In 2008, Marriner formed the very popular band, MonkeyJunk with Tony D and Matt Sobb.  Marriner currently plays with MonkeyJunk, with the Colin James Band, and as a solo artist.

“Manx and I did a bunch of gigs in 2019, but then everything shut down.  He’s been touring solo recently and his son accompanies him.  He’s one of my closest friends and we still talk all the time, and we threaten to make another recording one day.  I’ve been really fortunate how the scheduling with the other bands has worked out, with so few conflicts.  MonkeyJunk’s and Colin’s schedules have just magically worked around each other, and I fill in any gaps with solo gigs. Matt and Tony are angels and let me go do my own thing.  It keeps things fresh and keeps me interested.

image“Sometimes we have great luck where MonkeyJunk plays the same festival as the Colin James Band, so I can double-dip.  Colin’s camp has been very accommodating and has allowed us to open for their tour.  It’s a good deal for MonkeyJunk because it means we get to play in bigger rooms to more people and build our audience.”

Marriner recently released his second solo album, which has a very inspirational title:  Hope Dies Last.  This album explores a wide range of musical styles and includes fifteen other musicians and some magnificent harmonies with female guest background singers.

“Women’s voices are amazing, and I had Samantha Martin, Mwansa Mwansa, Roxanne Potvin, and Moa Blucher on the album, which is something I don’t often get to have when I’m doing a live performance.  I’ve been a fan of so many different genres of music along with the blues and always noticed when artists are singing harmonies.

“I think it’s one of the most moving things in music.  I’ve always been drawn to the harmonies of gospel singers, like The Staple Singers.  That seems less of a thing in the blues, but I tend to explore it more and more.  I love vocal arrangements.  But I couldn’t sing for shit as a kid.  I was kicked out of choir and encouraged to do arts and crafts instead.  I didn’t learn to sing until I was 15 and started playing with JW-Jones, and he said I had to sing.”

Hope Dies Last, like Hell Bound for Heaven, was released on Holger Petersen’s label, Stony Plain Records.

“Stony Plain is great, and Holger may be the only person in the entire music industry who has done everything he said he would, and if he can’t do it, he won’t say he will do it.  There is so much fickleness and sometimes there are shady characters in this industry, but Holger is one of the truly great people in the business.  And he still has this childlike love affair with music and the musicians.  Every time we hang out, I hear a new epic story about him and other artists—everyone knows him.  And he is a huge champion for MonkeyJunk.”

Petersen spoke equally highly of Marriner noting, “Steve has been on Canada’s blues radar since he was a teenager. He has it all; a multi-instrumentalist, a distinctive, soulful singer and songwriter, and an imaginative producer. He’s a pleasure to work with and a great friend.”

Marriner is a gifted songwriter, and frequently fans approach him to tell him how meaningful his original songs are to them.  A few songs seem to stand out as particularly powerful, such as “Hell Bound for Heaven,” which notes “Tired of dragging these old bones around.  Love and loss have worn my body down.  The sun is low and fading from the sky.  Close my eyes and let my spirit fly.”

“That song is one of my favorites I have ever written, and everyone seems to respond well to it.  That’s usually not for me to decide.  Sometimes you feel strongly about a song but it’s not the one that resonates with the audience.  That’s the funny thing about your relationship with your own music—you don’t get to control how it’s perceived.

“Anyway, I wrote that song when I was working with Harry Manx, we were supposed to show up with six songs each, but I only had two.  I had this musical progression that I was playing, and he said his mother had just passed away and he said she had gotten tired of dragging those bones around.  So, I quickly scribbled some lyrics and used those words, ‘tired of dragging these old bones around.’  My grandmother was also close to death at that point, and I had that on my mind, and that song became one of my favorites.

image“The title song from my latest album, Hope Dies Last was a line I had held onto for a long time.  I was going to use it in another song I intended to write, but it never came together.  Then the line finally found a home.  We were right in the middle of the pandemic, and I felt like I wanted people to know that even if everything goes to shit, we still have hope.  Sometimes that’s all you have but it can be enough to keep you going.”

Marriner’s composition, “Somethin’, Somethin,’” is another powerful song that audiences find quite moving.  That song was inspired by the homeless people that Marriner observed while living in Toronto.  It notes, “I’ve got somethin’ somethin’ inside my head. Somethin’ that’s telling me it should be me instead.  Look inside my weary soul and you will see.  I’ve got somethin’ somethin’ that’s wrong with me.  My mind has enslaved me.  I need someone to save me.”

“I’ve always wanted it to be ok to discuss mental health openly.  I think, more and more, we’re getting there as a society.  But it’s still stigmatized.  People are afraid of what they don’t understand.  Whether we want to admit it or not, everyone has times when they struggle or have a bout of depression.  The world is a crazy place and we’re not made of stone.  You realize some people just had a couple of things not go their way and the bottom falls out.  It’s a slippery slope and they’re not far from you.

“Two years ago, I had lost a brother-in-law to suicide. I was playing a solo show at the Cabaret and about to go into that song and I just lost my shit and started crying on stage.  The room was so silent and then I realized that everyone else was crying too.  Afterwards I had about 20 people lined up wanting to tell me about their experiences.  A couple had lost their daughter to suicide and an older African American man told me that his father never let him cry and seeing me on stage let him know that it’s ok.

“It’s a very powerful thing.  A lot of parents teach us to keep a stiff upper lip and swallow it.  I would like to be part of something that shows that it’s OK to feel and show your feelings.  When I play with a band I like to get people dancing.  But when I play solo shows, I try to hit people in the heart and maybe I can be that emotionally vulnerable guy so other people know it’s OK.  If my music can be a vehicle to heal people, then that is the best possible outcome for me.”

Marriner made good use of his time off during the pandemic and taught himself sound engineering.

“I’ve been producing records for a long time, but before it was always with an engineer, mainly Ken Friesen.  But during the pandemic I found it was a really good time to dive into a project I had wanted to do for so long.  And when I get interested in something, I really get into it.  I’ve always been an all-or-none type of character.  So, I just poured myself into learning all about engineering. I’d spend all day trying to get a good guitar sound or all day trying to get the piano or vocal sound I wanted.  I would spend weeks and weeks, all day trying to get one sound.  I also watched YouTube videos and made calls to engineers.  That was my big pandemic project.”

Marriner and Jimmy Bowskill have a recording studio near Toronto called The Ganaraska Recording Company, named for the river that runs through the town.  The duo has produced many records for other artists.

image“Jimmy and I moved the studio into this wicked old farmhouse, with bedrooms upstairs. And we have a lot of vintage equipment.  We have vintage microphones and equipment that can help capture the sound we want, and Jimmy has amazing vintage guitars. We have an Ampex 351 mono tape machine, like the one used at Sun Records, with five microphones and five channels.  So, we’re set up to make music in a more traditional way than a lot of modern recording studios.  It’s all live off the floor, and it sounds like 1956.  Even the aesthetic of the place lends to the vintage sound.

“We have made close to forty records of all different genres. We will get a solo artist to come, and we have a house band that is killer.  Jimmy and I work together on engineering.  We work very quickly and well together.  He has the brightest mind of anyone I’ve ever met in the music industry.   He is lesser known in the States, but he is so fabulously talented.  My talent is my ear.  I have perfect pitch.  I didn’t realize that at first.  In my teens band members would tell me the key the song was going to be in, and I thought they were being condescending.  I thought everyone could hear the key.”

Marriner hopes to continue to produce albums for other artists, especially now that he plans to tour a bit less, given that he and his fiancée, Jacquie, are expecting their first child.

“We just found out that it’s going to be a girl.  We’ve been together for eight years and have been engaged for the past two years.  We wrote the song “Enough” together.  It was about a breakup we had for a couple of months.  But she has a whole notebook of lyrics that we need to mine through, and we fully intend on doing more writing together.  She has incredibly keen ears and is sort of my compass for what is cool.  She has just enough knowledge about music, but not too much that she is biased.  She is a great sounding-board.

“And I am ready to tour less for a while.  I’m lucky that I don’t have to do every gig just because it’s offered to me.  And I’m grateful that now my phone actually rings– I don’t have to hunt quite as hard and can be selective.  I want to be home more now that we are expecting a child, and plan to focus on producing for other artists.  I just finished producing a record for one of Canada’s most senior statesmen, Big Dave McLean.  He’s been playing blues in Canada since the early 1970s and was friends with Muddy Waters.  I had always wanted to produce a record for him, and it’s almost done, so that’s exciting for me.  He has been a hero of mine for a long time, but I always felt that his past recordings have never quite done him justice.  We have a good capture of what he is, and we’re excited for people to hear it.  We’re also producing David Gogo’s next record, which we’ll start in February.”

Fans can only hope that the birth of his child doesn’t lead to Marriner limiting his touring too extensively, as they would certainly miss seeing this phenomenal musician perform live.  You can learn more about Steve Marriner, including seeing his tour dates, at

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.


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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6 

imageDelta By The Beach – Kris Kringle’s Krawl

C Street Records

Single 45 RPM Record

Delta By The Beach are a Ventura, Californai blues band  who often venture to the epicenter of the blues world in Clarkesdale, Mississippi.  Featuring the great R.J. Mischo as a guest on the harp, the band offers up a tight  performance. They have an album under their belts and another being finished. The wrote and performed this West Coast, swinging Christmas blues cut to celebrate this holiday season.

Delta By The Beach are Doc Ventura on bass and lead vocals, Milo Slewdge on guitar and Eddie Layman on drums. As noted above, R.J. Mischo appears playing harp. MIxing the traditional sounds of West Coast Blues  and what they’ve picked up in the modern Delta blues scene, they deliver a cool sound with a couple of fun, new Christmas tunes penned by Timothy Schulfer.

Packaged in a cooly decorated sleeve and pressed on green vinyl, the record’s A side highlights what Santa does when his rounds are complete. Like any red-blooded, jolly old elf, he hits the bar scene with his buddies to relax after a hard night’s work.  A nice post-Christmas Eve “Kris Kringle’s Krawl” lets Santa unwind with his freinds as they celebrate another job well done. Mischo’s harp is exceptional and the guitar work is solid and well done. The vocals and fun lyrics make for a great new addition to the Christmas songbook!

The B side is more super Xmas cheer with “Very Best Christmas This Year,”  More delightful harp and West Cost Blues. Christmas is coming down the tracks and the smoke is pouring out the stack as Santa the Engineer prepares to make this what the title says. Call and response, a nice grooving shuffle and ringing guitar also help to sell this one.

This cool Cali trio with help from R.J. Mischo make the season bright with this pair of fine original Christmas blues cuts. The trio and Santa are featured on the cover of the record at Winchester’s Grill and Saloon in Ventura with Kris Kringle looking a bit worn out. It’s all great fun and well worth many a spin as you get ready for the 2023 Christmas season!

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 6 

imageIra Walker – Be That Man

Arm Records – 2023

10 tracks; 35 minutes

As a musician and artist, Ira Walker has had an incredible journey and one heck of a ride. According to the in-sleeve of his latest album, Be That Man, as a teenager Walker took lessons from legendary Bay Area drummer Larry Vann and in his early twenties quit a band, traded in his gear, and walked over to a bar next door. While pondering what to do with his life, Walker met Eddie Money, who bought him a beer and told Walker that he was “looking for a bass player.” Next thing Walker knew, he was playing bass for Eddie Money and, eventually, performed live in front of 50,000 fans in Oakland, California.

Be That Man encompasses Walker’s continuing journey and that heck of a ride. He has written music for and performed with a Who’s Who list of music luminaries: Steve Miller, Joe Satriani, Carlos Santana, Brian May, Keb’ Mo’, and Tommy Castro, to name just a few. As a singer and bass player, Walker played with Neal Schon of Journey and Bill Kreutzmann of the Grateful Dead. Walker says his music has that Southern Blues soul…original, authentic, and organic.

In the album credits, Walker, a multi-faceted musician himself, states that he “is the band except where noted.” Others featured on the various tracks include: Wilson Brooks (drums) and Lorenzo Hawkins (drums on tracks 3, 8, 10), Ron Cole (piano; tracks 4, 7, 8 and accordion on track 5), Charles Spikes (rhythm guitar; track 8), Andre Fyling (piano; track 5), Terry Peterson (guitar solo on track 3), Michael Robinson (piano; track 3), Nehemiah Johnson (organ; track 3), Steve Canali (slide on tracks 5, 6, 10), and Rick Baskin and Ro’ Harpo (harmonicas on track 6).

Walker, along with Will Schollar and Jeff Waluch were the executive engineers, and the album was recorded and mixed at Dundas Castle Studios in Ontario.

Be That Man hits the right notes with tracks like “Imaginary Woman” with its slow, steady rhythm that builds upon a strong piano and “If You Were Mine,” a rollicking country-blues style tune featuring a terrific guitar intro and solo. “I Can’t Forget” brings Walker’s authenticity to light, along with a “brassy” backbeat and showcasing Ron Cole’s superb piano playing.

The album’s title track, “Be That Man,” shows an organic soulful intensity, along with Walker’s intense musicianship. Another soulful song, “Be Alone” also features Cole’s keyboard chops and an easy-feeling bluesy beat.

Upbeat and funky with a great refrain, “Creole Stew” fits the true-to-form organic label Walker specializes in and features terrific slide guitar from Steve Canali and Andre Fyling on piano. Finally, “Western Hero” takes the listener back home and downhome with its plodding beat, Canali on slide, and mesmerizing harps from Baskin and Harpo.

For Ira Walker, “music is medicine” and Be That Man is just what the good doctor ordered.

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 – 3 of 6 

imageChris Beard – Pass It On Down

Blue Heart Records – 2023

10 tracks; 44 minutes

Born into a musical family, Chris Beard took after his father, Joe, by picking up the guitar at age 5; apparently his Dad was disappointed that he started so late! Growing up among visitors to his home like Buddy Guy and Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy, Chris started his recording career back in the 1990’s and has released several albums since then, but this new effort, released on the Blue Heart label, looks like a major step forward. There are five remastered cuts, plus five new recordings, Chris on lead guitar and vocals throughout. The band on the older recordings is Brother Wilson on rhythm guitar, John Tucker on keys, Marvin Parker on bass and Carlton Campbell on drums; on the new recordings Carlton retains the drum seat, alongside Phillip Campbell on rhythm guitar, Jonathan Curry or Darryl Cathey on keys and Richard Rodolph on bass. One track was recorded in Louisiana with Kenny Neal and family members: Kenny producing and playing rhythm guitar, Frederick on keys, Darnell on bass and Gralin Hoffman on drums. In addition backing vocals on some tracks are by Mary Ellen Haden or Duane Beard and Quin Lawrence adds horns to some of the new recordings. Apart from the Kenny Neal-produced track everything was recorded close to home in Rochester, NY. Chris wrote eight of the ten songs, one with Johnny Rawls, and there are two covers.

The five remastered tracks come from the independently released 2015 album Eye Of The Witch. “When Love Come Knocking” and “Let the Chips Fall” are funky numbers with horn stabs provided by keyboard player John Tucker: in the former Chris recognizes that you have to take the opportunity when it arises, in the latter he bemoans the behavior of his partner, a situation which seems to affect his guitar playing as he plays torrents of anguished notes. The other three tracks are all ballads: “Keeps Me Believing” finds Chris expressing his continuing need for love in a warm love song; soaring guitar introduces “House Of Shame”, another soulful ballad in which Chris is the one who “broke the rules” and is left all alone; then we get a moving song with tragic lyrics about a young, abandoned girl forced into prostitution in order to try to buy her way out of the city, and what happens when she gets pregnant, in essence her whole life is “One More Cry For Love”. A sensitive ballad written by Colin Linden, Gary Nicholson and Kimmie Rhodes, this tune has choral vocals and some fine playing from Chris and is the pick of the older cuts.

Chris finds himself attracted to a “Big Girl” in a bar and “Who Do You Think You’re Foolin’” is uptempo with the horns riffing behind Chris’ almost rap-like vocals and guitar: “Love don’t come from unicorns or fairy godmothers; if you want a true love come get with this brother”. Perhaps such experiences were the inspiration for Chris seeing himself as “Bitter Baby”, a slow blues that features some fine piano. Dad Joe shares vocals and guitar with Chris on the autobiographical “Pass It On Down”, a co-write with Johnny Rawls who contributes to the backing vocals. The two generations of Beards exchange some lovely choruses on guitar. Written by the late Bob Greenlee, “Son I Never Knew” appeared on Kenny Neal’s Devil Child album in 1989 and is here re-worked with soulful intensity, notably from Chris’ guitar.

Chris Beard has a particularly sure touch on the ballads but can also up the pace, showing himself to be an all-round modern bluesman.

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 – 4 of 4 

imageBig Frank / Mike Smith – Outskirts of Town

JoJo Honey Records

12 Tracks – 60 Minutes

Big Frank Mirra has been a fixture in the New York City Tri-State Blues Scene for several decades. As a teenager, Frank listened to Rock and Roll but was drawn to the sound of the blues. He developed a love of traditional blues and studied the history of the idiom to become a subject matter expert. Big Frank plays acoustic and electric guitar with an emphasis on the bottle neck slide, dobro, and provides the vocals all in the traditional styles that caught his attention. Over the years, Big Frank has opened for acts such as Little Charlie and the Nightcats, Bo Diddley, Jr., and Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears and has played with Blues legends Hubert Sumlin and Moose Walker. Big Frank has been inducted into the New York and the New jersey Blues Halls of Fame. Big Frank has been featured on the “King Biscuit Flour Hour” where disc jockey Sonny Payne referenced him as “the closest thing I’ve heard to Hound Dog Taylor”.

Big Frank regularly performs with his full group, The Healers. But for the last decade, he has also been joined by harmonica player Mike Smith. The two routinely perform as a duo that features authentic elements of the American Blues experience. Like Big Frank, Mike has also been a fixture in the New York Metro roots music scene for decades and has shared the stage with James Cotton, The Subdudes, and many others.

The album was recorded live in the studio on January 23 and 24, 2023. The duo recorded twelve classic blues songs with Matt Raymond joining them on bass on half of the songs. The result is an acoustic experience firmly in the original authentic blues style.

The album opens with “Bring it On Home”. written by Willie Dixon and first recorded in 1963 by Sonny Boy Williamson. Dixon later recorded his own version of the song as has many others since, including Led Zeppelin.  Big Frank’s smooth vocals slides alongside Mike’s harmonica before his thumping guitar joins in. Big Joe Williams’ 1960 song “Shake Your Boogie” is a laid-back boogie with Big Frank’s acoustic guitar and Mike’s harmonica sliding along together. “I’m Gonna Move (To the Outskirts of Town)” was written by Bill Weldon and Roy Jordan and was first recorded in 1942 by Big Bill and His Chicago Five. Louis Jordan and Ray Charles both later recorded their versions of the song. Big Frank and Mike present the song in a very laid back and easy blues.

John Brim’s “Ice Cream Man” was first recorded by him in 1953 but was not released until 1969. Van Halen recorded a version of the song on their debut album in 1978, which provided Brim adequate funds to open a Chicago nightclub. An acoustic version here is upbeat as Frank “guarantees that he has all flavors that will satisfy”. “That’s Alright” was written and recorded by Jimmy Rogers in 1950 with Little Walter on harmonica and performed with an authentic air here. Morris “Magic Slim” Holt’s “Gambling Blues” was released on an album in 2012.

“Casual Friend” was recorded by Roosevelt Sykes in 1962. Frank declares that “our love is over…I cannot even pay the bills”. Chester “Howlin’ Wolf” Burnett’s “Smokestack Lightning” was released in 1956, although he had performed it in various versions as early as the 1930’s. Frank gets Wolf’s howl into the mix.  Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Keep It to Yourself” from 1956 states “you got a husband, I got a wife, do me a favor baby, keep our business to yourself”.

Charley Patton’s “Pony Blues” dates back to 1929. Like the previous song, Patton’s lyrics points to some infidelity as he states, “I don’t want to marry, just wanna be your man.” Joe Clayton’s “Cheating and Lying Blues” from 1942 continues that theme. The album concludes with Son House’s “Empire State Express” “which is taking my woman away, leaving poor old me standing here”. First released in 1965, the song has recently been remastered and released in a new 2023 Son House compilation by Dan Auerbach.

The album maintains a quiet acoustic tone throughout with Mike’s harmonica filling in. Frank’s vocals accomplish the sounds of the original artists, although sounding somewhat strained on occasion. In all, the album provides the intended link to the original artists and a style of music that is tending to currently fade away but certainly needs the exposure to a modern audience. Thank you, Frank and Mike, for your effort to keep traditional blues alive.

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 – 5 of 5 

imageScottie Miller – Carnival Cocoon

Scottie Miller Music LLC

23 tracks/65:12 and an 84 page book

This book of poems and a CD of the poems recited to and with music arrived in the post office box this summer. Scottie Miller writes about life in the Twin Cities and beyond.  He plays the blues and has toured with Ruthie Foster who appears here on one track. Miller sings/recites and plays piano. Also appearing are JT Bates on drums and percussion, Jeff Bailey on electric and double  bass, Ciera Alise Hill and Bex Gaunt on violin, Jesse Kellerman on viola, and Greg Byers in cello and double bass. Hill also adds more violins and cello.

Miller’s love for poetry was fostered one year while attending Berklee School of music. The beat-poet hearkens back to a 1060’s sort of vibe as the cuts are mostly spoken word with some jazz piano and perhaps a trio or small ensemble playing behind the poems. The album is not really a blues album, but it’s cool and interesting to listen to, and you can read the poetry with the accompanying booklet.

“Stay” with Ruthie Foster is a cool R&B/rap tune. It’s about not giving up and staying with what you are doing. “Adrenaline” has a bigger musical production, too. “Bleeker Street” is sung and accompanied by some interesting orchestral strings as is “Beggar, Banquet, Fisherman’s Pay.” “The Gritty Border” is a hard core blues number with piano and drums. The rest of the songs are spoken or sung lightly with piano or small jazzy accompaniment.

Overall it is an interesting and somewhat unique voyage of Miller’s journeys as captured in prose.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6 

imageAl Basile – B’s Time

Sweetspot Records

17 songs time – 73:58

Marking the 25th Anniversary of Al Basile’s Sweetspot record label, here is his career retrospective, featuring seventeen songs from his solo CDs. All the tracks have been remixed and remastered. The singer-songwriter-cornetist has received the support of quite a crew of top rate musicians for his recordings. As seen here, those have included members of Roomful Of Blues and Duke Robillard’s bands. Duke himself figures prominently with his creative guitar skills on all but two songs. Al’s music incorporates elements of R&B, blues, jazz and a standard vibe among others. He comes equipped with a smooth vocal delivery and cornet skills in abundance. He also wrote sixteen of the seventeen songs in this collection.

The horn and guitar intro leading into “You Showed Me Something” is very similar to the intro to Ray Charles’ “Hit The Road Jack”. The horns give it a big band sound, while the piano of Bruce Katz is really cool jazz. Duke’s guitar hovers around nicely with a nifty riff. Duke unleashes an intense and heavy guitar attack on “I Really Miss You”. It is gospel time as The Blind Boys Of Alabama lend their heavenly voices to support Al on “Lie Down In Darkness”. Bruce Bears contributes “Sunday go to meeting” piano while Al delivers a stirring cornet solo.

The music to “Tickle My Mule” is fine, but the lyrics not so much. Bruce Katz on piano and “Monster” Mike Welch’s guitar skills help with the upbeat vibe. I suppose it is intended as double entendre. Duke’s guitar tone is Beatlesque and at times imitates their trademark backwards guitar sound on the atmospheric “Drive Me Darling”. Matt McCabe’s honky tonk piano plays well against Jerry Portnoy’s harmonica and Duke’s strummed acoustic on the melancholy “Hooray For Me (and to Hell with You). A Latin beat permeates the jazzy instrumental “B.D.”. Paul Odeh’s eloquent piano stylings and Al’s cornet solo are the icing on the cake.

Bruce Katz with his emotive organ and the poignant horns enliven the slow, romantic slow dance of “Can I Trust You With A Kiss?”. Al goes into crooner mode on “Don’t Wait Too Long”, a track from Sinatra’s “September Of My Years” album that was written by Sunny Skylar. Marty Ballou plays a beautiful upright bass solo and Fred Bates adds jazzy guitar. Variety is the name of the game as a Reggae beat and horns take the listener to Jamacia on “Causing Joy”.

Sista Monica duets with Al on “Make A Litle Heaven” and she lights it up with her gospel fueled ferocity. The horn section carries the melody. Tom West plays piano and organ on the slow and enchanting “Sleeping Beauty”, while Jerry McAllister’s rolling drums seal the deal. “While We’re Dancing” is cocktail jazz with Bruce Katz on piano and Al on stirring cornet. Melancholy once again on “You Don’t Know Lonesome”. Beautiful horn arrangement underscored by the piano and organ of Bruce Bears. Things close out with “1.843”, a tale of a botched robbery. It is upbeat Rythm & Blues augmented by stinging Robillard guitar magic.

There you have it folks! Seventy-three minutes and fifty-eight seconds of musical pleasure. With Al Basile and his emotively voiced lyrics and splendid cornet combined with a first class contingent of musical cohorts, you can’t go wrong. You guys are in for a treat!

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

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