Issue 17-7 February 16, 2023

Cover photo © 2023 Laura Carbone

 In This Issue 

Anita Schlank has our feature interview with Laura Chavez. We have six Blues reviews for you this week including an sampler album from The Las Vegas Blues Society of local Blues talent plus new music from Vanessa Collier, Joanne Shaw Taylor, King Bee & The Stingers, LJ Mounteney and Big B and the Actual Proof. Scroll down and check it out!



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 Featured Interview – Laura Chavez 

imageLaura Chavez often appears to be an unobtrusive “side-musician” who can initially seem restrained and shy.   She refrains from speaking onstage, avoids flashy clothing, and modestly offers support to assist the bandleaders with whom she collaborates.  But when she steps forward to play a guitar solo, the audience finds themselves transfixed by her powerful presence.  Chavez’s impassioned playing is spellbinding, and the purity of her tone reflects the influence of other highly emotive players, such as Ronnie Earl and “Monster” Mike Welch.  She noted that she gets ideas for her playing from listening to other instruments, such as the saxophone.

“I’ve always listened to music with the biggest ears I possibly can.  I listen to other instruments, like the organ parts in rock, blues, or soul, and try to copy those ideas with the guitar.  It becomes less about the guitar as an instrument and more about its role in the project.  Listening to horns changes your whole sense of phrasing because of the way saxophonists must take a breath.  It ends up being in a different place than you would normally end a phrase.  It changes the rhythm and cadence of it.  I tend to listen more to any other instrument besides the guitar lately, and then adapt it for the guitar.”

Chavez first became widely known when touring with Candye Kane, who made it her mission to ensure that the world became aware of Chavez’ superior talent.  However, blues fans are lucky that Chavez continued to seek her dream after an uninspiring experience in school, and then a discouraging and sexist attitude from her first guitar teacher, who did not think girls could be good players.

“I went to a Catholic school—the Brothers of Assisi.  It was such an archaic side of the church.  I got stuck with a teacher who was eighty-five years old and would teach with his eyes closed, so I would sit there, and in my mind, I would practice scales on my left hand.  But my first experience with a guitar teacher was not good at all. I guess I was about eight years old, and there were just two of us when I first started taking lessons—just this boy and me.  The teacher immediately took to him, and made no real effort with me, so I didn’t make any effort.  And he would make discouraging statements, like when I once got the A minor chord and the E chord confused (which are basically the same chords except one string apart), and he went so far as to say that I should be tested for dyslexia.  So, I would start to go hide until my guitar lesson time was over and my parents realized that they needed to stop these lessons. Years later I had a great teacher, and I took over teaching some of the lessons for that teacher at the same store as my first teacher.  He would go out of his way to peer through the window to see what I was doing, but he never said anything to me.  I hope he sees some of these interviews.”

Chavez also noted that for some unexplainable reason, people are constantly approaching her and making statements about how she is a good bass player, which is an instrument she has never played.  She indicated that this happens at nearly every show, even when the actual bass player is playing an upright bass, so she cannot comprehend why they make that error, (and when she asks, they have no answer).  Therefore, she assumes it is likely due to people’s preconceived notions that women do not play lead guitar, an attitude that is hard to understand in 2023.

imageChavez has taught guitar since she was eighteen, and initially had as many as thirty students in a week.  Once she began touring regularly, this number decreased significantly, and she now mainly has some very advanced students.

“One woman took lessons from me and now she’s got this crazy career.  Her name is Liv Slingerland, and she playing with artists like Olivia Rodrigo.  I guess if I were going to give advice to beginners, I would say half of learning is all about listening and absorbing all kinds of music.  Play with anybody, whenever you can.  Take any opportunity to play with anybody.  Nothing is too small—it’s all worth it.”

Chavez was granted, but then decided to defer admission to the University of California-Berkeley and had planned to be a pre-med student.  However, she realized that her music career was skyrocketing, so she abandoned that plan.  However, she found ways to fulfill her desire to help those with medical needs, and for ten years she volunteered at Stanford Children’s Hospital, something she managed to fit in despite being known for being extremely busy.  It would not be unusual for her to have six or seven gigs on a three-day weekend, all with different bandleaders.  So it was a shock for her during the pandemic, when touring ceased.  That was the first time she tried busking.

“The pandemic was hard for most of us.  It made me doubt the future and caused an identity crisis of sorts.  What am I if I’m not a guitar player? Up until that point I had not made a single dollar doing any other kind of job other than playing guitar. For two months I didn’t play at all, and I even lost my callouses, but then tried busking and it was actually pretty cool.  You didn’t want to be partly responsible for causing people to gather or enticing people to be irresponsible, so I went to an area of San Diego called Little Italy where there are just pedestrians, no cars.  So, people can distance while walking and restaurants had outdoor seating.  I started playing with Chickenbone Slim and at first, I thought I’d just come with an acoustic guitar, but soon I was bringing battery-powered amps and a whole drum set.  We started playing every Friday and we drew a regular crowd.  The whole busking thing, along with grants from the Blues Foundation and some generous bandleaders, saved me during the pandemic.  And Chickenbone Slim and I recorded an album together with Kid Anderson at Greaseland, which should be out on Vizztone Records in the Spring.”

During the pandemic, Chavez also spent a lot of time reading recipes and cooking, which is a talent most don’t know she possesses.  She is particularly fond of recipes that honor her father’s Mexican heritage.

“People are surprised to hear that I am an aspiring cook.  I really got into making different dishes with mole sauces during the pandemic.  I would take all the peppers and grind them down and make everything from scratch.”

Chavez is also a songwriter, and while she does sometimes write both the music and the lyrics to songs, she prefers writing in collaboration with others.  The most meaningful song she co-wrote was a song she wrote with Kane, called “Walking, Talking Haunted House”.  This was also Kane’s favorite song and reflected their shared fondness for anything spooky.

image“I’ve written the most songs with Candye.  She was very prolific.  She would have poems that she had written, and it was never very difficult to turn some of them into songs.  It would come together so easily and naturally. The “Walking Talking, Haunted House” song was written from the perspective of an older woman, and she was looking back, basically as the ghost of all previous relationships.  It’s like a Screamin’ Jay Hawkins slow, minor, dark-type song.  The entire last album, Coming Out Swinging, was therapeutic to write.  I remember recording that album right when we found out that she had relapsed, so the whole recording was very difficult for a number of reasons, but also therapeutic.  It was a dark time, but it still managed to be fun.  That album is full of life.”

Since Kane’s passing, Chavez has worked with numerous artists, but most often can be seen supporting Nikki Hill or Vanessa Collier.  They travel extensively, often internationally.

“I’ve been to over fifty countries.  One of the most interesting and amazing places I’ve played is Israel.  That is a country just so full.  Everything converges in this one area of the world, with Judaism, Muslim and the Christian Church altogether.  It’s very intense. It permeates every other aspect.  I went to Russia a few times and I hope the situation improves so that someday I will have the chance to go back there.  You know, you have no concept of what is truly old until you see some of those buildings, and surprisingly there are three different blues festivals in Romania.  I think often of the people I met in these countries, and everyone was so grateful that we came, and they couldn’t believe that we thought to come to their country.  They appreciated us so much.”

When asked about the equipment she uses in performance Chavez replied:

“My guitar is a Fender 1960 Relic, one of the first they made back in 1996. I’ve had it since the beginning of 2001 and it’s played every gig with me since- literally thousands and thousands of gigs. People ask me about the pickups and I have no idea. It’s been refreted with giant frets over and over again and it’s a long overdue for another one.”

“My main amp has always been a Vero 20th Century limited built by Chris Fazio in Joliet, IL. For bigger venues when I can play louder it’s a Fender Bassman. I also have been playing a tweed Blues Jr. when I can’t get my Vero everywhere. Regardless of the amp, I always have the Boss/Fender 63’ Reverb pedal and an older model Xotic RC Boost that I keep on all of the time.”

Chavez’s powerfully moving guitar style is something every blues lover should witness.  And she has captured the attention of some of the biggest names in blues guitar history.  For example, Bob Margolin has stated the following about her abilities: “Laura always finds clever, fiery and lyrical guitar fills and solos in any song.  When I listen, I can’t wait to hear what she’ll play next!”

Chavez does not have a webpage, but you can check out her Facebook page at, and she is likely to be found wherever Nikki Hill and Vanessa Collier are touring.

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.

For other interviews on our website CLICK HERE



 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6 

IMAGEVanessa Collier – Live at Power Station

Phenix Records – 2022

10 tracks;   69 minutes

In the liner notes of her fifth release, Vanessa Collier stated that she has wanted to make a live album since 2017 because people kept telling her that while her recordings are excellent, they don’t compare to the experience of witnessing her perform live.  She also wanted to highlight how some of the songs from her earlier releases have evolved over time.  Live at Power Station, (which begins with the easily recognizable voice of Chris “Bad News” Barnes introducing Collier), captures the magic of her live performances, and the energy and passion can be felt throughout the tracks.  While she also plays resonator guitar on the album, her saxophone solos are particularly impressive and always tasteful, and her vocal quality is also excellent.

This release contains seven original songs and three covers.  Not surprisingly, (since she was a first-place winner in the International Songwriting Contest), her lyrics are poetic with powerful imagery.  For example, in “When it Don’t Come Easy,” she notes “there’s a hooked nose man hidin’ in the craters of the moon.  He’s been aimin’ his spotlight at all my faults.  I try to slip in between the slats of the light. But I’m having’ no luck at all…I’ve been sandin’ down my splintered heart.”  A crowd favorite, “Sweatin’ like a Pig, Singin’  like an Angel” brings strong visual images to mind of church attendees fanning themselves in the humidity of the South.  And the initial track begins with her lamenting why someone “no longer loves me like you used to.”  However, by the end of the song, she has turned the tables, singing “I’m givin’ up your troublesome mystery.  I’ll be gone before you miss me.  ‘Cause lovin’ you is like throwin’ tears on a fire and I only end up burned…I don’t love you like I used to”.

Collier also selected some choice covers, and the album includes wonderful versions of Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand the Rain” and Bono’s “When Love Comes to Town”.  The decision to include “Love Me Like a Man” initially seemed like it might be a relative weakness of the album, (since that song is known to be covered by nearly every female artist participating in a jam session).  But one of the wisest moves made by Collier has been to collaborate with the extremely talented Laura Chavez, and Chavez’ guitar solo on “Love Me Like a Man” is so beautifully emotive that it, (along with Collier’s subsequent sax solo),  makes that song seem new again.  Other supporting musicians are equally as strong, with Byron Cage on drums, Andrew Crane on bass and William Gorman on Keyboards.  They all then demonstrate their funkier side with a James Brown-influenced original entitled “Tongue Tied”, and the album ends with Collier’s tribute to her mother, “Two Parts Sugar, One Part Lime”.

Collier wrote that she hoped to uplift and inspire others with Live at Power Station, and it seems that she has likely been successful in meeting that goal.

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.

For other reviews on our website CLICK HERE


 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 6 

imageThe Las Vegas Blues Society Presents – Blues Las Vegas Volume One

Write Answer Records

20 tracks – 80 minutes

The Las Vegas Blues Society (LVBS) released this sampler to highlight the local talent and to promote the vibrant blues scene in the city. Some of the artists on the album will probably be well known to many listeners, but most are the talented musicians that are likely only regionally known. Dan Harrell, a local blues aficionado, executive produced the album. Award winning Jimmy Carpenter, the current LVBS President, acted as the consultant overseeing the recording of the album.  Ten artists each provide two songs showcasing the music of Las Vegas.

Leon Blue – Leon has the first and last songs on the album. Leon is a 91-year-old keyboard player. He has been playing piano for 80 years and playing professionally for over 70 of those years. He has been a band member of Ike and Tina Turner and Albert Collins among others and has been a regular on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. He opens with the rollicking “Blues Bender”, a great promotion for the giant blues festival held annually in Las Vegas and currently scheduled for September 7 – 10, 2023. Terry Hawk Johnson joins him on bass, Cameron Tyler on drums, and Jimmy Carpenter on sax. The bouncy “Slow Dance” concludes the album in fine form with a piano instrumental and gives a great accent to all the excellent music on this album.

Scott Rhiner and the Moanin’ Blacksnakes -Scott has been playing in Vegas for 40 years and the last 25 with the Blacksnakes. The group has been selected as LVBS’s Best Blues Band multiple times. Two original compositions “Hard Lovin’ Woman” and “Love My Baby” feature Scott on guitar and vocals and Mark Foster on keyboards. The first song reminds me of a Deep Purple song. The latter song is more laid back. Mike Rector on bass, Brett Barnes on drums, and Curtis Craft on congas complete the group.

Jimmy Carpenter – Jimmy is a nationally known performer with many solo records as well as performing with other musicians like Tinsley Ellis, Mike Zito, and Marica Ball. In 2022 he won the Blues Music Award for Best Instrumentalist and has won a Grammy Award as a composer. He provides the vocals and, of course the sax, on “Bad Case of Love”, a song made famous by B.B. King, and Sonny Boy Williamson I’s “Stop Breaking Down”.  His band includes Chris Tofield on guitar, Mike Merritt on bass, and Cameron Tyler on drums.

Junior Brantley and the Shuffle-aires- Junior Brantley has six decades of performance experience. A talented vocalist and keyboard player, he got his start playing in bands in Milwaukee. He settled in Las Vegas in the 80’s after performing with some touring bands. The Shuffle-aires also first formed in Milwaukee 40 years ago. The group is led by Al Ek, a harmonica and bass player, with Jim Lovgren on drums and Johnny Z (Zoroya) on guitar. Brantley and the group joined together 30 years ago when the Shuffle-aires relocated to Vegas. They perform Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Don’t Start me Talking” and Big Joe Turner’s “Juke Joint Blues”.

Boyz in the Parking Lot Featuring Billy Ray Charles- Guitarist, vocalist and keyboard player Billy Ray Charles got his start in Louisiana but settled in Las Vegas in 1994. The first song is his very able version of “Further on Up the Road”, a song covered by Eric Clapton and many others. He follows that with an original, “I Treat My Woman”, a humorous song in which he states that ” I treat my woman better than I treat my wife”. The group includes Terry Hawk Johnson on bass and Conrad Csogi  on drums.

Monk and the Po’ Boys- Dennis “Monk” Andriaccio is a talented harmonica player and vocalist who is known as Las Vegas’ jam master leading more than 40 jam sessions every year. His group includes Trevor Johnson on guitar, Alex Martella on guitar and vocals, Al Guzman on drums, and Bill Bailey on bass. The group has been together for 40 years. They open with Taj Mahal’s “She Caught the Katy” followed By Lowell Fulson’s “Baby Please Don’t Go”.

Chris Tofield – Mentioned above as guitarist for Jimmy Carpenter, Chris also leads his own group which also includes Mike Merritt and Cameron Tyler and adds Brian Triola on Keyboards. His guitar work has been compared to that of Roy Buchanan and Gary Moore and offers distinctive vocals on Big Joe Williams’ “Big Legged Woman” and Elmore James’ “Mean Mistreatin’ Woman”.

Vegas Strip Kings Featuring Billy Truitt, Jimmy Carpenter and Al Ek – Billy Truitt, who plays keyboards, the accordion and provides vocals joins with Carpenter and EK in a Vegas crowd favorite band that provide everything from blues and rockabilly to Cajun and Zydeco. Justin Truitt on drums and Robert Edwards on bass complete the group. Here they perform Tom Wait’s “Temptation” and Memphis Slim’s “My Dog Is Mean” which has a strong accordion lead.

Trevor and the Swingin’ Johnsons – Trevor Johnson, an Ohio native, plays guitar on these songs, but also plays harmonica, lap steel and sings. On these songs Julia Finger is a guest vocalist. Jimmy Carpenter also guests with Al Ek providing upright bass. Al Guzman on drums and Alex Martella on vocals, guitar and trumpet are the remaining members of the band. The swinging “Forty Cups of Coffee” originally recorded by Bill Haley and The Comets is the lead song. It is followed By Teddy Daniel’s “Trying to Make a Living”, which was previously recorded by Mark Hummel.

Carlos Guerrero and Friends- In 2006, Carlos relocated from Connecticut o Vegas where he has become a fixture on the music scene playing a cross of influences from blues and jazz. His friends include Fernando Tort on bass, Brian Triola on keyboards, and Rob Whited on drums. Two original songs a jazzy “Music Is My Mistress” and “Pandemonium” with a crying guitar are presented.

The album definitely shows the great blues talent that exists in Las Vegas and makes me eager to return there to check it out further.

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.

For other reviews on our website CLICK HERE


 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 6 

imageJoanne Shaw Taylor – Blues From the Heart: Live

Keeping the Blues Alive Records KTBA92702

16 songs – 78 minutes

One of the true superstars in the British blues scene, Joanne Shaw Taylor possesses a honeyed alto voice and guitar and songwriting skills to match, and her talents are on display for the world to see in this stellar CD/DVD combo package, a live set captured in front of an enthusiast audience in Franklin, Tenn., last year.

Joanne grew up in a musical family in the West Midlands of England and had already been fronting her band for two years and at both Ronnie Scott’s and the Marquee in London in the early 2000s when Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics discovered her at age 16. He quickly enlisted her to tour as a member of his supergroup, DUP, an experimental project that he formed with Gary “Mudbone” Cooper.

Now one of the most sought-after guitarists in the blues-rock community, Taylor signed with Germany’s Ruf Records late in the decade and made her debut with White Sugar in 2009, beginning a career that quickly resulted in back-to-back British Blues Awards for female vocalist of the year in 2010 and 2011, the same year she took home top honors as a songwriter, too. This is the ninth album in her arsenal and her second on Joe Bonamassa’s Keeping the Blues Alive imprint following The Blues Album, an all-cover CD released in 2021.

Bonamassa co-produced this one at Blackbird Studios in Nashville along with regular partner Josh Smith. Mixed by Kevin Shirley at The Cave in Sydney, Australia, both Joe and Kenny Wayne Shepherd make guest appearances on guitar along with Mike Farris on vocals and Dave McMurray on sax in a lineup that includes Rob McNelley on six-string and Jimmy Wallace on keys throughout. Nick Buda (drums) and Steve Mackey (bass) form the rhythm section, and they’re joined by Devonne Fowlkes and Kim Fleming on backing vocals.

Peter Green’s “Stop Messin’ Round” sprints out of the gate atop a medium-fast shuffle with Taylor laying down upper-register runs on guitar, and her vocals bookend an extended solo in which Wallace changes instruments mid-run before yielding to six-string. Joanne’s reading of Little Milton’s “If That Ain’t a Reason” gets the soulful reading it deserves before she launches into a cover of Otis Rush’s Windy City classic, “Keep on Lovin’ Me,” in which the horns play call-and-response to her vocals.

Things slow down for the ballad “If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody,” a Top 10 R&B hit for James Ray in 1962, before Shepherd joins Taylor onstage for a six-minute sendup of Albert King’s “Can’t You See What You’re Doing to Me.” Things initially drop to a whisper as Joanne reinvents Cash McCall’s “Let Me Down Easy,” which builds in intensity throughout, and then Kim Wilson’s “Two Time My Lovin’” before dipping into Don Covay’s catalog for takes on “I Don’t Know What You’ve Got” and “Three Time Loser,” which charted for Little Richard and Wilson Pickett.

Four Taylor originals – the percussive, Delta-flavored “Dyin’ to Know,” the unhurried rocker “Just Another Word,” “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” which opens as a ballad and finishes as an intense, bluesy rocker, and the steady-driving “I’m in Chains” – follow before three more covers — Ry Cooder’s “Don’t Go Away Mad,” featuring Bonamassa, an interesting take on  George Gershwin’s “Summertime” and Dave Mason’s “Only You Know and I Know” – bring the album to a close. The accompanying DVD also includes a bonus track, “I’m No Angel,” along with backstage interviews with Taylor and Bonamassa captured prior to the event.

Possibly the best live recording you’ll hear this year, Blues from the Heart is highly polished and well-executed throughout. Buy a ticket to this show. You won’t regret it!

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.

For other reviews on our website CLICK HERE


 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 6 

imageKing Bee & The Stingers – Don’t Move So Fast

Self- Release – 2023

12 tracks, 51 minutes

Mark Menefee was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Over the years, he taught himself to play the guitar and harmonica. In 2006, he formed King Bee & The Stingers where he also became the lead vocalist. That band like so many others went through many configurations. However, the biggest change came when his daughter, Sarah, joined the band as a back-up vocalist and eventually sharing leads with her father. Sarah has been singing since age 2, when she and her twin sister was given a karaoke machine for Christmas.  Sarah was a four-year vocalist in the Indiana University’s award-winning Singing Hoosiers. She followed that with performances in other bands before joining the King Bees.

That configuration of the band represented the Kentuckiana Blues Society (KBS) at the International Blues Challenge and was a semi-finalist in 2018 and 2019. The group released their first album Meet Me In Memphis prior to the 2019 IBC.

After 13 years in the band, Mark decided to retire to just managing the band leaving the band leadership to his daughter. A new formation of the band began in 2019 first with the addition of Jeff Shew on bass.  Jeff was mentored by Pinetop Perkins and got to play in Pinetop’s band for several years while living in Laporte, Indiana. Jeff with his band partner Mark Carnes had also represented the KBS at the 2020 IBC as their solo/duo performers and became semi-finalists. Mark, an accomplished harmonica player followed Jeff into the King Bees in 2020. Paul Karaffa started as a part-time drummer for the King Bees in 2006 and joined the band full time in 2019. Classically trained Wes Schrimsher is a recent graduate of the Berklee College of Music and lived and performed in New York for three years prior to joining the King Bees in 2021. The current group was completed in 2022 when Matt Boat joined the group as their guitarist. Matt also a graduate of Indiana University brings years of experience playing in other bands. The band members have all come together in Bloomington, Indiana as their home base.

In 2022 the new King Bee & The Stingers again competed in the KBS Challenge and became their representative at the 2023 IBC, where they again became semi-finalists. This current recording was released immediately prior to that event. Sarah was also invited to perform in the IBC’s National Women in Blues Showcase. Sony Music The Orchard has picked up one song from the album, “Contrary to the Word” and has given it a national release on many platforms.

The album consists of eleven original songs and one cover. Six of the eleven songs were co-written by Sarah and Jeff. Two more were written by Jeff and the remainder by the other band members.

The album opens with Mark’s crying harmonica lead as Sarah powerful and emotional vocals advises her lover “Don’t Move So Fast”. The cover photo of the album clearly depicts the result of his push. She next asks, “Where Were You?“…when I needed you” on a soft blues number.

“Turn The Chickens Loose” opens with a little chicken cluck and an invitation to a party in a solid blues rock number citing “Red Beans, cornbread, barbeque on the grill, zydeco on the jukebox and the neighbors cannot stand still”.  Matt’s guitar rings out as Sarah noted that “Grandma kept the chickens in the coop but they danced around the yard when she turned the chickens loose”.

“Contrary To the Word” states that “I rock, you roll …but when we get together…I want to spend my life with you”. and is guaranteed to get you moving in a solid rock beat.

A few horns are added to the mix on a rocking “Get it While You Can” as she notes that “A little bit of liquor does it every time.” and “Tomorrow doesn’t matter.”

Wes’ organ introduces a slow blues as Sarah offers a plaintive moan on “(Won’t Be The) Death of Me” and Mark’s harmonica wails behind her. Next Sarah requests the bartender to pour some “Four Roses” and seeks a partner to dance. The sole cover, a funky soulful transformation of Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” follows.

Sarah discusses that she “Once Had a Man” that was no-good on another slow blues. A jumping “Homewrecker” describes a woman with “legs all the way up to her neck” and that “can raise the temperature five or six degrees”. “Left Out in the Cold” is a slow soulful cry as “You end up leaving me – again”. The album concludes with “Break That Spell” as she says “goodbye baby” with some nice slide guitar work accompanying.

Strong songwriting throughout with Sarah’s masterful, clear vocals, superb instrumentals mixing the lead between harmonica, guitar and keyboards, and solid rhythm backup make this a winning album and one well worth your listen.

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.

For other reviews on our website CLICK HERE

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6 

imageLJ Mounteney – Mama Danced…

Puzzle Rabbit Records LJM 0002

13 songs – 47 minutes

Born in Edmonton, raised in Alberta, LJ Mounteney is a sweet soprano with a lilting delivery who’s been dubbed as “a Canadian Bonnie Raitt,” and shows why with this interesting effort, a 13-song sophomore effort that features backing and production from several of the top artists in music-rich Vancouver, where she’s now based.

LJ became interested in the blues during childhood, when she sang alone to her mother’s albums, which included Loggins & Messina, Dolly Parton and Ike and Tina Turner and Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter and Muddy Waters, too. Music ran deep in her family. Not only does her mother have a background in classical piano, but her grandfather played 13 instruments by ear.

She’s been based on the Canadian West Coast since enrolling in the jazz program at Vancouver Community College, where she was mentored in voice and improvisation by Jennifer Scott, a singer/keyboard player with a lengthy recording career, before launching a professional career that’s included stints in jazz, swing, R&B and pop. She made her debut as a recording artist in 2017 with the release of Here in the Dark, an eight-tune effort that included blues and bosa nova.

Recorded at Electric City Sound in Victoria, B.C., and Fiasco Studios and Demi-Tone Studio in Vancouver, this disc was produced by multi-instrumentalist Jack Lavin, a native Chicagoan who co-founded Powder Blues – one of the Great North’s top bands ever – before becoming a Juno Award winner – the Canadian version of the Grammy – for his work in the studio.

Lavin contributes harp and bass to a pair of tracks in this moveable feast of musicians, which includes Jan Randall on keys, John Roper on guitar, Maple Blues Award winner Brandon Isaak on guitar, vocals and harp, Jerry Cook on sax, Geeta Daas on trumpet and Ross Hall on drums. They’re augmented by appearances from Debra Peters on accordion, Nick Apivor on percussion and backing vocals from Dee Daniels, Krystle Dos Santos and Lillooet Fox.

A set of eight originals from various sources and five covers, LJ demonstrates her versatility throughout, beginning with an updated take on Memphis Minnie’s “Dirty Rat,” which is delivered atop an unhurried shuffle. A taste of the Big Easy kicks in via Lavin’s “I Like It Hot” before Mounteney delivers “Wasn’t That a Time?,” a haunting, contemporary blues penned by Jim Foster.

The sprightly title tune, “Mama Danced,” is up next, propelled lightly by harmonica and accordion, before Isaak shares vocals on his original, “Take My Message,” a driving blues with strong gospel appeal. The pleasant, original soul-blues, “Somebody Pour Me Some Coffee,” seeks solace in the morning following a fight with a lover the preceding night then gives way to a percussive, horn-propelled take on Allen Toussaint’s “I Did My Part.”

Things slow down dramatically for the torch-song ballad “Life of the Party” – a new tune penned by Dennis Meneely, not the Shawn Mendes hit – before a cover of Willie Dixon’s “I’m Ready,” the only number in this set that leaves this listener flat because of its oh-so-traditional arrangement and vocals that lack impact when delivered in upper-register soprano. Things improve dramatically for “Take Some Care of Me,” a ballad penned by Linda Kidder, before covers of Huey Meaux’s “Neighbor, Neighbor” and Ike Turner’s “Two Is a Couple” precede the Tom Arntzen original, “Basement Suite Blues,” to close.

Despite the Dixon number, LJ Mounteney serves up a winner here for anyone with a taste for jazzy, traditional blues.

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.

For other reviews on our website CLICK HERE

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6 

imageBig B and the Actual Proof – The Noir Album

Self Released

10 tracks

Film noir was a staple of Hollywood in the 1940’s and 1950’s. It was low key, melodramatic, subdued lighting and dark in theme and look.  Brian “Big B” Burlson has spent thirty years as a singer, songwriter and guitar player and an even longer time as a movie fan. A film lover since his childhood, he became obsessed with film noir in college and adapts that film style into his blues and rock sounds. It’s an interesting, dark ride through ten tracks.

The band were semifinalists in the 2022 International Blues Challenge. Big B and the band offer the listener some cool tunes to enjoy. This is his second album; the first features him with the Magic Bullets on 11 Shots. It, too, features dark themed topics, but theNoir album certainly takes the cake.

Burlson handles the lead vocals and the guitars and keyed instruments. Erin Pitman on drums and Mitch Sharpe on bass flesh out the rest of the trio. These Detroit artists have a lot of talent they bring a half dozen guests in to be featured on some cuts.

The album begins with some eerie, pensive sounds and then bursts into a brazen , driving piece entitled “Wooden Kimono,” a dark refence to a casket. Dark and violent, it’s a cool cut. Zen Zadraven adds his piano here and Johnny evans is on sax. Things slow down for “Sitting On The Devil’s Lap,” a rocking blues with big guitar work and a somber feeling. The songs builds and builds to a heavy, guitar –laden frenzy. “Red Carpet” is a bouncy cut of the story of a girl who goes to Hollywood to make her mark. When she couldn’t get her way she blackmails those who don’t take to being toyed with, and the only red carpet she’s ever on is the one covered in her blood.  Typical noir plot, a driving bass line and more stinging guitar make this one shine. Horseshows and Hand Grenades” follows, with some more cool sax by Evans with lyrics about a washed up fighter . More good noir stuff in a slow and hard hitting cut.

“Five Hundred Large” is a story of a bank built over an abandoned NYC subway.  The perps dig down and make out until they are, of course, caught. It’s a slick, driving number featuring the Theater Bizarre Orchestra horn section. “All Bad” is a slow and thoughtful blues about an evil women who has no social redeeming value. Poignant guitar work and pensive vocals help make this nice. “God’s Lonely Man” is up next, a throbbing number  about a bored taxi driver who turns into a hitman. Big guitar and a deep groove make this cut interesting.

“Ben Franklin and the Number Five Combo” adds Koji Cassetta on upright bass. This story is about a trio who rob a Brinks truck. They stop for Chinese and the fortune cookie gets one of the robbers thinking if he knocks the other two off he’s got a better chance getting away with it. Unfortunately witnesses abound, including the restaurant’s waiter and then a year later three men were dead. It’s a fun, dark story and cut. Jim McCarty adds the middle guitar solo in “I’m About To Get Evil.” Here we’ve got a guy who’s good all his life as his buddies get all the women and have all the fun, so in his old age the guy plans of getting evil. Slow blues and wickedly cool stuff. :just Another Harlem Sunset“ concludes the album. Zadarec and Evans make another appearance and James Simonson adds upright bass in this tight and cool  instrumental that would easily set the mood for any dark, noir picture.  Guitar, bass and accompaniment are all top notch.

It’s a little odd but it’s very cool to listen to this film noir themed album of blues and rock. If old, black and white period films are your love and you like the blues, this album will certainly intrigue you. If all this is new to you, it’s an interesting intro to the world of noir and may move you to watch. I enjoyed the set of tunes. They are not faint hearted topics, but they are a cool. dark set of songs with some solid musicianship delivering the goods!

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.

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