Issue 17-8 February 23, 2023


Cover photo © 2023 Laura Carbone

 In This Issue 

Anita Schlank has our feature interview Silent Partners. We have six Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Stan Mosley, John Primer, Oliver Darling, Grant Geissman, Janky and Mattias Malm. Scroll down and check it out!

 From The Editor’s Desk 

imageHey Blues Fans,

The 2023 Blues Blast Music Awards are coming soon. Next week we will announce this year’s award series and the beginning of open submissions until May 31st, 2023.

We are adding one new category this year, Blues Video of the Year. This new category provides a way for artists who do not release full albums to have a YouTube video of their single songs recognized. The video must be released on YouTube in our 2023 eligibility period of June 1, 2022 and May 31, 2023 to be considered.

The 16th Blues Blast Music Awards ceremonies will be held on September 23rd, 2023 in Peoria, IL. Mark your Calendars NOW!

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser



 Help Wanted – Writers 

Do you really know your Blues and enjoy telling others about it?

Join our team! Blues Blast Magazine is looking for a few good Blues writers. We are expanding our staff. We need experienced writers who know Blues and can write a minimum of 2 interviews a month. Our FREE weekly magazine has 44,000 subscribers and we get 75,000 monthly website visitors at

These positions need a person who really loves the Blues and wants to spread the Blues word! Must have good writing and composition skills!

Experience with WordPress a plus! (If you are familiar with Microsoft Word, it is similar. Very easy to use!)

Experienced writers are encouraged to apply. Send an email to and tell us about your Blues background. If possible send samples of previous work or links to it online.

Please be sure to include your phone number in your email reply.

 Featured Interview – Silent Partners 

imageMusicians have always known how crucial excellent “sidemen” are to bands.  The lead singer may enjoy the fame, but if a listener loves a song, it is very likely due to the performance by the rhythm section.  However, few sidemen get the recognition they deserve.  The exceptional musicians who joined together to form the group called Silent Partners are all keenly aware of the important contribution of sidemen, as they have all served in that role with some of the most influential artists in the blues genre.  Drummer/singer Tony “TC” Coleman, bassist/singer Russell Jackson, and guitarist/singer Jonathan Ellison make up the powerful trio called Silent Partners, and they recently played on the Legendary Blues Cruise.  Blues Blast Magazine was lucky enough to have the opportunity to catch up with the band members during the cruise, despite their busy schedule of shows, appearances on discussion panels, and being highly sought-after to participate in late-night jam sessions.  They each explained which characteristics they believed most contributed to being a skilled sideman.

Coleman, who has performed with such icons as Otis Clay, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Albert King, Koko Taylor, and was the drummer in BB King’s band for over 25 years, noted that BB King fired him five times for being strongly opinionated, but always hired him back each time due to his skillful drumming.  He indicated that what makes a sideman great is “patience—you must be able to tolerate a lot of nonsense that has nothing to do with the music”.  Jackson was also in Otis Clays’ and BB King’s bands and explained, “without the sidemen, you don’t have the sound.  It takes a lot of humbleness, and a true sideman knows how to accompany the artist to make the artist feel totally comfortable”.  And Ellison was the band leader for Denise LaSalle for many years, before being crowned the new “King of Beale Street” in 2019 after Preston Shannon passed away.  He stated, “being a proper rhythm section is about leaving space for a song to breathe and to allow the other instruments to do their jobs.  It’s all about the proper measurements.  It’s like baking a cake—individually the ingredients might taste bad, but when you put them together just right you’ve got something good.”

Important lessons were learned from playing with those blues legends, with Coleman noting that the primary lesson he learned was “patience”.   Jackson reported, “I was only 24 years old, so BB taught me what to stay away from.  I was never high or drunk on stage.  The wisest advice was that he taught me how to perform.  Any time he would tell me to do something, I would do it until he told me to change it. And I learned to have fun with it.”  Ellison stated that the most important lesson he learned from Denise LaSalle was how she “got there before every other artist and was the last one to leave.  She would sit outside at the merch table and talk to every person, even if they didn’t buy something.  The rule was we could not go back to the hotel room until she was finished”.  He noted that one time he tried to rush her, “and she told me, ‘Every one of those people who came to see our show is the reason you have work now.  I’m going to make sure I give them my time and attention, so don’t you ever rush me again.  It’s about the two P’s—People and Product.  If you don’t take care of your people, they won’t buy your product.’ She was always a sweetheart to the fans and that’s what I want to strive to do”.

While all three group members share outstanding musicianship, their journeys leading them into the music world were quite varied.  Coleman reported having a natural gift for music and indicated that he never needed any music lessons.  He always had a passion for drumming, beginning with banging on pots and pans as a small child.  His father, Carlton “King” Coleman, was a disc jockey, an emcee at the Apollo Theater, and was also the creator of the dance the “mashed potato,” and lead singer on that song, which was recorded with James Brown’s band.  In addition, “King” Coleman was a good friend of BB King and Bobby Bland, although BB King did not realize the father-son relationship until after he had already hired TC Coleman.

imageJackson reported that he is the only musician in his family and stated that he didn’t decide to play music until he was an adult in the Army, and then had to practice 12-14 hours a day to make it happen.  Jackson was playing by ear when he was in BB King’s band, but later went to Dick Grove’s School of Music in LA, “where I learned how to read music.  It was a 36-month program, but I did it in 18 months.  And, when I came out, I understood technique, and learned how to read music.”  Jackson recalled that when he met Coleman (while also in the Army) and was asked to join his band, he only knew how to play two songs.  Coleman explained why he didn’t give up on Jackson back then, despite Jackson’s lack of performance experience.

“At that time, this guitar player and I, we kept losing bass players because we were so hard on them all the time.  Russell was hungry to learn and to be part of a band.  And it’s all about the attitude.  Sometimes when you’re really good, you have an attitude, whereas he was willing to work hard to be better, to be a good player.”

Ellison grew up in a family who had formed The Ellison Family gospel group, and he learned to play the guitar by being taught by his father.  He noted, “I tune in E-flat instead of standard E because my mother and father had a gospel group and they wouldn’t buy us any tuners, so we tuned to the black keys on the piano.  However, even though my dad only played gospel, he played with a bluesy feel.  He had his Jimmy Reed records and he always told me, ‘Son, don’t ever play anything you can’t feel and never sing about something you don’t know about.’ So, every song you hear me sing is something I went through, and if I don’t feel it, I don’t play it.”

Jackson and Coleman initially put together Silent Partners in 1987, and in 1989 recorded one album on Antone records with guitarist Mel Brown, entitled If It’s All Night, It’s Alright.  That collaboration lasted approximately two years.  However, Coleman noted that, for legitimate reasons, BB King was not in favor of them having this band on the side.

“BB had us on retainer, so we got paid whether we worked or not, and we had our medical and dental insurance through BB’s band.  So, I guess he felt like he didn’t need us working with other people.  I had a gig with Albert Collins one time and Collins casually mentioned it to BB, and BB’s tone let me know he did not care for that.”

Not  long after the release of that first album, Silent Partners stopped performing together.  And, after leaving BB King’s band, Jackson and Coleman focused on their individual projects until Jim Pugh approached them about a possible reunion.  Pugh is the founder of the Little Village Foundation, a non-profit organization that advertises using “music as a tool to increase cross-cultural understanding”. By obtaining grants and receiving donations, the Foundation is able to record and produce artists who might not otherwise have the opportunity to be heard outside of their local community.  Pugh noted that Silent Partners was a great example of an extremely talented band that might unfortunately tend to get overlooked by executives in the music industry.

“Silent Partners is the real music of the city.  It’s deep!  But the sad fact is that there are a lot of different kinds of people who are marginalized, with age being one of those groups.  Name me one artist over thirty years of age who has gotten any real public awareness.  It doesn’t exist.  It’s a game for those in their 20s.  All we try to do is raise the currency and the real currency is awareness.  The one thing that has value is awareness because the more people who know who you are, the more possibilities are available to you.  If you look at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965—all those college kids came out to listen to Peter, Paul & Mary, but they heard Muddy Waters and thought he was cool.  So, I’m trying to get Silent Partners out there to different arenas to try to connect this music with new audiences.”

imagePrompted by Pugh’s encouragement, Coleman and Jackson decided to proceed with a new album, but first recruited Ellison, a strong singer with a pure, beautiful guitar style similar to BB King’s sound.  Coleman noted, “Jonathan is very talented and very soulful.  He is what Memphis represents as far as the culture and the history of blues and soul music.   He’s the real thing.  He’s a piece of the root—not a fruit.”

The resulting product was the album Changing Times, which features songs written by all three members, and with each sharing the vocal responsibility.  The members of Silent Partners are not afraid to tackle social issues, as all three are like-minded socially and politically, and are saddened by the current presence of violence, hate and poor race relations in the United States.  Coleman expressed that he was inspired by Curtis Mayfield and tries to be on the same page with artists like Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye, who wanted equality for all, and wrote about “real stuff that affects humanity.”  Two of Coleman’s original songs that are featured on the album, “Ain’t No Right Way to Do Wrong” and “Post Traumatic Blues Syndrome” seem almost prophetic in light of the recent extreme violence which occurred in Memphis (and which disrupted the International Blues Challenge being held there).  Ellison was particularly affected by that incident since he lives in Memphis.

“It is terrible stuff.  It just shows you how, in our country, we have a long way to go.  It’s about shifting mindsets.  These were Black officers who savagely beat this young Black man.  That was a million percent uncalled for.  It’s a microcosm of what I see the city becoming.”

The Silent Partners members have all written additional songs that will likely be on a future album, including a song Ellison wrote for his wife during the pandemic “about our shared experiences in different relationships”, and an original song by Jackson about “how the blues has been stepped on and mistreated, called ‘Have Mercy for the Blues’”.

While Coleman often appears to be the spokesperson for the band, he notes that they are equal partners, and none of them has a vote that can overrule the others.

“We’re three.  We have to think like a band.  If one person thinks like an individual, it won’t work.  We all have different strengths, and I love to talk, that’s my strength, but we’re a band–like a band of brothers. It seems like we don’t have many bands anymore—you have artists with bands backing the artist.  I prefer bands.”

Jackson agreed with the beauty of the equality in the band, and appreciates how each have the opportunity to share their original songs and harmonize their vocals.  However, he was somewhat humble about his own singing ability, noting “I can sing, but Jon and Tony can saaaang!”

While Coleman, Jackson and Ellison frequently play many different styles of music, they note that when they do play the blues they tend to be “blues purists”.  They often feel frustrated when, after paying their dues and perfecting their sound by learning from the foremost leaders in the blues, they find themselves feeling as if they are starting from scratch.  Jackson’s original song, “Proving Ground” speaks of the experience of sensing that they must prove their worth all over again. Coleman explained further, stating, “We are the blues.  We are raw blues.  We played with the greatest people in our lifetime and to be disregarded and not acknowledged—I just don’t think that’s right. It’s like a crop duster company that needs a pilot and then here comes a guy that was formerly a NASA astronaut, and they want to see his resume, even though they know he worked for NASA.”

imageThe members of Silent Partners also discussed how it sometimes seems as if they are being overlooked for show opportunities based on decisions that don’t seem related to the music, and those opportunities are instead given to white musicians who are not true blues artists. Ellison explained that, to him, what makes the difference in real blues artists is how their life experiences seem able to come out through their music, causing the audience to feel the emotions in inexplicable ways.  And, in the honest, candid manner for which he is well-known, Coleman also spoke about this situation, and did so with passion.  However, he clarified that he was, in no way, endorsing some of the extreme, hateful statements that had appeared on some social media platforms which argued that no white person should play the blues.  He stressed that he just wants to call people’s attention to the inequities that are present in the business so they can be addressed and so all artists can be treated with equal respect.  He noted that many Black artists are afraid to discuss this topic out of fear that it will be misconstrued as simply being unwelcoming to any white artists in the genre.

“What executives in the industry are pushing these days is not blues. It’s hard to see some white artists making millions of dollars off our music when they don’t even understand the culture.  I see a girl with her skirt up high and her breasts hanging out, and she is made more important than someone who can really do the music.  There are certainly some white artists that can connect with the culture, but many aren’t interested in the culture.  The blues is fundamentally Black music, and they don’t even feel comfortable being around Black people.  To explain this further, I was asked to play with Jamey Johnson, who is a country artist, so I went around Nashville and sat in redneck bars and listened to the music and talked to country musicians.  People wondered why I was there, but I was interested in learning their culture and trying to get inside of it if I was going to play country.  Someone who was raised around country music is going to play it better than me—that is just a fact.  The same thing with reggae bands.  I was told once that I’m a good drummer, but my reggae sucks.  You have to get into the culture in order to play it well.  Today it seems like people can half-ass everything and call it the blues.”

Silent Partners’ new release is getting excellent reviews, and doors do appear to be opening for this deserving band.  Ellison noted that their chemistry only gets better with every show, and “it’s great that we actually like each other—we’re like brothers now.  We do our best and leave it all out there every show”.  Coleman agreed, noting “I think we have the potential to be one of the best blues-based musical bands in history.  But we must stay focused.  When we’re with Silent Partners, I don’t want to do Tony Coleman.  We’re good individually, but we’re even better working together!”

Audiences who go see Silent Partners perform will soon understand why Blues Blast Magazine’s senior writer Marty Gunther described them in the following manner: “Searing, skin-tight…contemporary blues, sure to have you begging for more.  Propelled by one of the best rhythm sections ever to set foot on a blues stage…(this is) soulful blues from folks who really know what they’re doing.”

You can find out more about Silent Partners at and you can purchase their album 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.



 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6 

imageStan Mosley – No Soul No Blues

Dialtone Records

11 songs – 45 minutes

Stan Mosley is one of those artists who, despite an abundance of talent and hard work, never seems to have received the recognition that he deserves.  He has been singing professionally since 1969, has recorded for various labels including Malaco and Mardi Gras, has won various awards including the Chicago Music Award (in 1982 and 1983) for Best Male R&B Vocalist, but still he flies under the musical radar of most blues and soul fans.

If there was any justice in the world, Mosley’s new album, the ironically titled No Soul No Blues, would change all that. Sadly, life being what it is, this is an unlikely outcome. Do yourself a favour, however, a grab a copy of this CD as soon as you can.

Recorded at Wire Studio in Austin, Texas, produced by Eddie Stout with engineering by Stuart Sullivan, and mixed and mastered at Lars Goransson Sound Outrageous in Austin, No Soul No Blues is absolutely stuffed with top quality blues and soul. Stout has cleverly paired Mosley with musicians who nail that soul-blues sound: the Moeller brothers on guitar and drums, Mike Archer on bass and Anthony Farrell on B-3 Organ. The Texas Horns (Kaz Kazanoff, John Mills and Al Gomez) provide superb horn support and Crystal Thomas joins Mosley on vocals on Wilson Pickett’s “Stomp” and The Temptations’ “I Can’t Get Next To You.”

The album contains a sweet mix of originals and covers, from Mosley’s own “Blues Man (No Soul, No Blues”, “Change Of Heart” and “Undisputed Love” and the Moeller Brothers’ “What You Need” to the likes of Robert Cray’s “Right Next Door (Because Of Me)” and Howlin’ Wolf’s “I Smell A Rat.”

Standing squarely in that soul-blues realm over which Little Milton and Bobby Bland reigned for so many years, No Soul No Blues pairs Mosley’s superb soul/R&B voice with Johnny Moeller’s always-outstanding guitar playing in a way that sometimes recalls the preternatural understanding and interaction between Johnny Adams and Walter Wolfman Washington. The slow blues closing track, “Undisputed Love”, is worth the price of admission by itself. The rhythm section on tracks like “Blues Man (No Soul, No Blues)” sets up an irresistible groove for the Texas Horns to drive over. And make no mistake, this is blues music, with a heavy dose of soul, as opposed to soul music with a hint of blues.

It is uplifting, engaging and bears repeated listening. The joyous laughter at the end of both “I’m Back To Collect” and “Stomp” perfectly captures the fun and enjoyment of the musicians making No Soul No Blues. There is nothing new or outside the box on this album. It is simply great music, played by masters of their craft and sung by one of the best soul-blues singers you may never have heard of.

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 – 2 of 6 

imageJohn Primer – Teardrops for Magic Slim

Blues House Productions

12 tracks/70 minutes

Recorded live at Rosa’s Lounge in Chicago on November 26, 2022, this fantastic tribute to Morris Holt, better known as Magic Slim features Slims’ former band mate John Primer giving us twelve outstanding songs that Magic Slim made part of his performances. The album pays tribute to Slim ten years after his passing.

The Teardrops here in addition to John are Jon McDonald on 2nd guitar, Earl Howell and Lenny Media on drums, and Danny O’Connor on bass. Slims’ son Shawn Holt also makes a guest appearance on a pair of tunes. The band is tight do a great job throughout.

“Mama Talk To Your Daughter” leads off the album, a classic Slim tune. Primer nails the lead vocals and guitar and he and the band give a boisterous and reverent performance. “Luv Sumbody” follows and Primer gets a nice groove going that just makes you hearken back to Magic Slim. The guitar stings and it’s just a great cut. “Every Night, Every Day” is a pretty and slow blues done right. Soulful and just something that the belly-rubbing dancers must have been out there grinding to.

Next is “Ain’t Doing Too Bad,” a slick shuffle with some great guitar and more solid vocals. “Buddy Buddy Friend” gets that great Magic Slim groove going again, a tasteful and cool rendition. “Trouble Of My Own” is one Slim penned himself and it’s  deep and cool slow blues. The long instrumental opening is pretty and then the vocals begin, delivered with feeling and emotion; very cool stuff. The guitar is cool and over the top as one would expect from Magic Slim; Primer does a superb job here.

Shawn Holt appears on the next two cuts. Slim’s son plays guitar and sings on “Let Me Love You Baby” and “It Hurts Me Too,” two classics from his Dad’s repertoire. He sings and plays with passion, leading the audience in call and response on the first cut and then slowing things down to a somber and beautiful sound on the latter piece. This is some wickedly cool music. Elmore James’ “Look Over Yonder” is next. The lead guitar rings brightly and Primer howls out the vocals as his former band mate did.

“The Things I Used To Do” is up next, another great slow and classic blues. Solid guitar work and vocals continue as Primer pys homage to Slim once again. “Before You Accuse Me” gets a jumping and fun cover as John wails on guitar. There are vocals, but this is a huge guitar cut with beautiful soloing. The album concludes with Little Milton’s “The Blues Is Alright.” This final tribute to the blues giants completes a great set of a dozen songs that Slim often performed for his adoring fans.

It’s been ten year since we lost Slim.  His raucous and wonderful guitar and vocals were something I and so many blues fans enjoyed over his career. This recording in tribute to Slim done at Rosa’s Lounge last year is a wonderful remembrance. John Primer spent many years playing with the Teardrops and pays an exceptional tribute to his old mentor. I most highly recommend adding this album to your blues collection. It’s a superb tribute and just great performances from top to bottom that fans with savor over and over again!

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 6 

imageOliver Darling – Lee’s Blues

APM Records

11 songs time – 32:23

After years working as a guitarist with artists such as Tanita Tikaram, Mike Sanchez, Geraint Watkins and touring in Imelda May’s band, Oliver recorded this, his first solo album. The UK singer-acoustic guitarist enlisted a few musicians to provide bare bones backing. From his usual live band he enlisted drummer Dean Beresford and upright bass player Al Gare. A few others make occasional appearances. The result is a collection of originals and cover songs delivered in a rather laid back setting.

The title song “Lee’s Blues” is a jaunty instrumental where he is backed by snare drum and upright bass. He approaches Skip James’ “Devil Got My Woman” at a slower pace than the original and with a country drawl to his vocal delivery. Rollo Markee provides harmonica. A rather long finger-picked guitar intro kicks off Big Bill Broonzy’s “Glory Of Love”. His vocal is commanding here as elsewhere throughout the proceedings.

Rollo does an energetic turn on his harp on “Got Love”, backed by snare and backing vocals. Oliver breaks out some funky down-home acoustic slide guitar “Don’t Think That I’m Crazy Anymore”. A Bo Diddley beat is employed on the original “Honey Bee” to good effect with guitar, harmonica and bass moving along at a nice clip. Joe Glossop lends his piano to the tale of warning “(You Should Be) Worried About Your Woman”.

Just guitar and tapping foot on the melancholy “Anne”. “Champagne And Caviar” is a jazzy closing time piano driven ditty. Bob Loveday adds his zippy violin skills to Sam Chatmon’s snare drum driven “She’s My Baby”. Accompanied solely by his acoustic finger-picked guitar on the lovely country-ish “I’m Your Guy”.

This UK guy has his country blues finger-picked guitar sound down while keeping it fresh and pumping new blood into a few cover songs along with his crafty original tunes. All unencumbered, nicely flowing music like a front porch get together in the Delta. I can here that ol’ hound dog barking off in the distance. Do yourself a favor and pick this gem up.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 6 

imageGrant Geissman – BLOOZ

General Confusion Music/ASCAP

CD: 12 Songs, 61 Minutes

Styles: Instrumental Blues, Jazz-Influenced Blues, All Original Songs

“Don’t overthink it.”

If you’ve watched the hit CBS sitcoms Mike and Molly, B Positive, and/or Two and a Half Men, you’ve probably heard of Grant Geissman. The catchy theme song for Men, all by itself, earned him an Emmy nomination. Now he’s playing the BLOOZ, and he never overthinks it. His freeform, jazz-influenced style is a trademark on television, so why not continue to branch out? On twelve original instrumentals, he and his fellow musicians wend their way through gospel (“Preach”), Latin-inspired blues (“Carlos En Siete”), rockabilly (“White Walls and Big Fins”) and gentle experimental (“Sorry Not Sorry”). There’s a method to the meandering here. Each number arrives at a clear, delightful destination.  Though Grant may not play the blues as most of us recognize them, these songs are unique, melodic, and heartfelt despite their lack of lyrics.

California-born Geissman’s storied career took off in late 1976, when he was asked to join Chuck Mangione’s band. The first album these two recorded was Feels So Good, featuring an iconic guitar solo by Grant on the title track. His pop and jazz solo work in the 1980s also helped him define the contemporary instrumental music of that era. He released four albums with Mesa/Bluemoon in the early 1990s, and label president George Nauful notes: “In 33 years of running the label, I can honestly say that Grant’s releases are among my favorites. And now I love every track on this new album! All the compositions and the musicianship are off the charts. We are very excited to be working with Grant again.” The man himself says of BLOOZ, “It’s the album I’ve always wanted to make.”

With him are Randy Brecker, Tom Scott, Robben Ford, Josh Smith, Joe Bonamassa, John Jorgenson, Jim Cox, Russell Ferrante, Emilio Palame, David Garfield, Trey Henry, Kevin Art, Ray Brinker, Bernie Dresel, Tiki Pasillas, and Kevin Ward.

I’d like to draw your attention to two more highlights, tracks six and nine: “Rage Cage” and “Stranger Danger.” (A lot of the song titles on this album show such parallelism.) The former is a jump-blues masterpiece that showcases Geissman’s guitar skills at optimum level. They soar above the keyboards and snazzy drumline, then allows the keys to take the lead, never missing a beat. The original hook and refrain then returns. You’ve almost forgotten them, but they reappear like old friends after a long absence. “Stranger Danger” is a smooth jazz track reminiscent of the “Pink Panther” theme, but with a lot more guitar and a lot less saxophone. It’s relaxing and mood-setting, perfect for a soundtrack at a quiet, dimly-lit café on a rainy evening.

Grant Geissman’s instrumental BLOOZ are eclectic, skillful, heart-touching and at times mind-blowing. They’re not what we’re used to, but they’re worth several repeats on your playlist!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 43 year old female Blues fan. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.


 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6 

imageJanky – C.B.G. Throwdown

Reverb Unit Records & The Cabin Record Co.

9 songs time – 44:34

Cigar Box Guitars Are Us as Janky and his partners in crime take us through The North Mississippi Hill Country Blues in a swampy, gritty, and s**t kicking ride on this, his fourth CD. Janky on the guitars and gritty vocals is ably abetted by Cole Koenning on rudimentary drums and Cody Cotton on harmonica. The cigar box guitars(C.B.G.) virtually eliminate soloing, but that is supplanted by a driving and menacing rhythm attack. Cody’s harmonica provides most of the melody. All this being said, the guys manage to get a varied sound. Janky wrote all but one song.

“7III8” has Bear Ryan and Kelly Allison joining in with Janky for unison and reply vocals. Janky intersperses spoken swamp philosophy amongst the singing. “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then”. With guitar and harmonica in unison, “My Mississippi Lady” transports the lucky listener to the Delta with its’ downhome atmospherics. The slide is truly mesmerizing. Funky and raw is the recipe for “You Must Be The Devil’s Favorite”. It is brimming with demonic references.

“What Cha Done Done” begins life with a repetitive chant and into rhythmic singing and some of Cody’s most inventive harp playing. The funk slides right into “Kiss Yo’ Self”. It is just oozing with swamp grease. “Sweet Disposition” is chock full of downhome Norm Crosby-isms such as “co-gravitise” and “guitarization”. With its’ pulsating hypnotic groove it brings to mind The North Mississippi Allstars.

“Shake It On Down” just flies by with a bass heavy riff as it exalts letting go and having a good time. Returning love is the theme of the bouncy “The Love Reflector”. Cody’s exuberant harp enhances the spirit of the song. Bear and Kelly once join in on vocals for the traditional “You Gotta Have That True Religion”. The incessant drums and tambourine enforce the religious fervor of this religious chestnut.

Janky and company due justice to this lesser exposed genre of blues music. The sheer grit and intensity invoke a response in anyone, be it positive or negative. This music, although simple in its’ structure, strikes deeply into human consciousness. The drive of the distorted guitars, the randy-ness of the harmonica combined with the incessant drive of the drums create a powerful music. The lyrics fly by, sometimes serious and sometimes inflected with humor. Whatever a listener thinks of this music, it is definitely real. You owe it to yourself to take this virtual jaunt to the swamp.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6 

imageMattias Malm – Electric Avenue

Self-produced CD

No website

12 songs – 36 minutes

An acoustic guitarist with a longtime love affair for Mississippi Hill Country blues, Mattias Malm served up a musical love letter to his hero, R.L. Burnside, with the well-received solo effort Malm on Burnside CD two years ago. And he follows suit with this effort, which finds him shifting into a full-band format.

Based in Malmö, Sweden, Mattias is a master of the droning, percussive, single-chord Hill Country style, and he possesses a voice steeped in the tradition, too. He teamed with fellow fret master Steve Grahn and took home top prize in the solo-duo competition at the 2009 European Blues Challenge. Longtime partners, they released two albums, That’s Alright in 2006 and Final Route in 2010.

Originally conceived as another solo effort, this album features a lineup that includes Magnus Østvang on Wurlitzer and Hammond organs and Tomas Melau on harmonica with Pontus Snibb on percussion, Thomas Larsen – best known for his work with Jason & the Scorchers — on bass and Yvette Eklund on backing vocals. The set was produced by Larsen and recorded at his Fabriken Studios in Malmo. And while Burnside’s music runs like a river throughout this one, Malm adds another dimension to his familiar material by infusing it with different influences throughout.

A military drumbeat opens “Goin’ Down South,” the first of four consecutive Burnside numbers, to open. It swings like a pendulum with Yvette doubling on choruses throughout, and addition of chords from Magnus’ organ alters the traditional Hill Country feel. Malm switches to electric guitar and Melau joins the action for a sprightly take on “Jumper on the Line” before he picks up his slide and the duo play call-and-response on “Fireman Ring the Bell.”

“Someday Baby” follows, mixing North Mississippi rhythms with occasional Windy City, Elmore James-style runs on slide, a fitting choice because it leads into a cover of Jimmy Reed’s familiar “You Don’t Have to Go,” which is delivered with Chicago flair atop a heavy two-four beat and includes a tasty, single-note six-string solo. Mattias shows his picking skills on a comfortable take on Doc Watson’s “Deep River Blues” before his light attack on the strings opens an uptempo reinterpretation of the “Pallet on the Floor,” which differs dramatically from the usual slow, sober reworkings of the standard.

A rousing version of R.L.’s “Poor Black Mattie” gives way to a fiery cover of Son House’s “Walking Blues” before two more Burnside numbers, “Miss Maybelle” and “Longhaired Doney,” precede John Lee Hooker’s “When My First Wife Left Me” to close.

Look at the song list for Electric Avenue and you might be prone to wonder why anyone would want to assemble an album of so many familiar covers. If you’re a fan of Hill Country, however, this one has a lot to offer. There’s a familiar thread throughout, but Mattias Malm’s approach presents each tune in a new light. Available as a digital download from multiple online vendors.

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.

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