Issue 17-9 March 2, 2023


Cover photo © 2023 Laura Carbone

 In This Issue 

Anita Schlank has our feature interview with Southern Avenue. We have eight Blues reviews for you this week including including a book about Zydeco music plus new music from Jimi “Primetime” Smith & Bob Corritore, Matchbox Bluesmaster Series Set 10, Voodoo Ramble, Mark “Pocket” Goldberg, Miss Emily, Fabrizio Poggi and Rev. John. Scroll down and check it out!

 From The Editor’s Desk 

imageHey Blues Fans,

The 16th Blues Blast Music Awards submissions opened yesterday. Submissions are open until May 31st,2023. Independent artists and labels are encouraged to submit their releases for consideration. Click HERE to submit your music now!

Tickets and hotel information for the BBMA ceremonies in Peoria, IL on September 23rd, 2023 will be announced soon.

The new Blues Video of the Year category provides a way to recognize artists who have a YouTube video of a song. Video must be released on YouTube between June 1, 2022 and May 31, 2023.

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 – Southern Avenue 

imageAnyone who has listened to albums by the blues/soul/funk band, Southern Avenue, knows that they are extraordinarily talented, with Ori Natafly’s fiery guitar work, Tierinii (Jackson) Natafly’s beautiful voice (which is often compared to Beyonce’s), Evan Sarver’s tasteful bass, and Jeremy Powell’s impressive contributions on keyboards.  In addition, Tierinii’s sister, Tikyra “TK” Jackson, offers excellent drumming and she and their other sister, Ava Jackson, also provide outstanding back-up vocals.  But it is only by seeing them live that you will get the full experience of their performance.  At their live shows you will witness their youthful energy, great chemistry, stunning good looks, stylish dress, and you will also find yourself spell bound by Tierinii’s near constant dancing.  They are, as is often referenced on talent shows, “the whole package”.

Interestingly, audiences wouldn’t have the opportunity to see this vibrant group at all if the Jackson sisters hadn’t had the courage to rebel against their strict religious upbringing, as their parents strongly disapproved of secular music.  In fact, initially their parents would not even come watch them perform, giving in only this year, once the band was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album (for Keep On).

Blues Blast Magazine was fortunate to have the opportunity to talk with Southern Avenue recently, while on the Legendary Blues Cruise.  (Unfortunately, their bass player, Evan, was unable to attend the interview.)  The subject of the Jackson sisters’ strict religious family came up when Tierinii was asked if her impressive dance skills came from early dance lessons.

“My mother had far too many kids to be able to afford dance lessons, plus dancing was considered a sin, so no.  What you see is the result of a child that was never allowed to dance—now I can’t stop.  I get tension in my knees, and I just have to jump.”

A few years ago, Ori, (who is from Israel), and Tierinii married and had a baby girl.  They were asked if it was difficult to raise children with parents coming from such different backgrounds.  Tierinii, who also has a ten-year-old daughter and a nine-year-old son, explained why it was not a problem for them.

“I just decided that I wouldn’t raise my children to be too religious.  I want them to have the opportunity to develop their own spiritual journey.  It’s funny, my son thinks he is Jewish.  We go to my mom’s house for Christmas, and we light the Menorah for Hannukah.  We just believe in celebrating all the holidays with good people.”

imageOri came to Memphis from Israel in 2013 to compete in the International Blues Challenge and quickly chose to make Memphis his new home.  Shortly after that, he decided he needed to interview singers for a revision of his band, and that was how he met Tierinii.  She joined, first bringing her sister, TK, on as their drummer.  They formed Southern Avenue in 2015, naming themselves after a street in Memphis that runs to “Soulsville”, the original home of Stax Records, (and they recorded for Stax earlier in their career).  Tierinii was asked at what point in that initial interview did she become certain that she wanted to work with Ori.

“There wasn’t a particular point or question.  I could just see that his energy was very genuine and transparent.  I could tell he was a really smart and genuine person.  He was very personal regarding everything he wanted to do and everything he was going through.  He was ambitious and had very good energy.”

In 2016, the band competed in the International Blues Challenge, with TK being only nineteen years of age at the time.  In 2021, they added Ava Jackson as their backup singer, although she explained how she actually sang on all of their albums.

“I’ve been recording with them since that first album, but I was only seventeen years old then and still in school.  After that, when they were releasing more music, I was in college studying classical violin.  Once I graduated, I started touring with the band live.  It’s been good for me.  I’m a stand-alone musician but coming together with the band has been a cool experience.  It’s helped a lot. They haven’t been able to incorporate my violin into the band yet, but we hope to do so in the future.”

The Jackson sisters’ also have a brother who is a musician, although not a part of the band.  TK mentioned that he was her number one influence for her drumming style.

“My big brother was my biggest influence for my drumming.  But I grew up around gospel, so I would say my influences also include the Clark Sisters and J. Drew Sheard.  He’s the only younger musician that takes the sound that is so classic and puts a modern take on it.  I didn’t take lessons—I taught myself.  I did drumline in college to round out my rudimentary foundation work, but mostly I taught myself by being around amazing musicians.”

Jeremy had a more formal approach to learning keyboards.

“I went to the Stax Music Academy and learned how to play basic blues.  I was in the very first class at Stax—the first year it was open.”  (Tierinii noted that the Stax Academy “is a really great school.  They groom these kids to be amazing musicians.”)

Southern Avenue’s albums include guest appearances by Cody and Luther Dickinson, from the North Mississippi Allstars.  Ori explained how that collaboration came to be.

image“We were a band for only a few weeks before Luther sent us a message on Instagram, saying that he liked us and asking us to let him know if he could help with anything.  He tried to get us signed to get us money to make a record, which was so appreciated because when I came to this country all I had was a suitcase and a guitar.  He was really helpful in the beginning, and he played slide guitar on ‘Don’t Give Up’ and ‘80 Miles from Memphis’.  And his brother, Cody, has written with us.  Their whole family, including their mom, knew us from our first shows.  The Dickinsons are definitely part of our history and will be a part of our future. It’s a Memphis thing.”

TK added a bit more information about Luther’s support of them.  “He also partly produced the first record, and became a mentor to us unexpectedly, because that’s just who he is.  He really encouraged us.  He also brought us Evan, our bass player, which is a match made in heaven.  Luther is like a guardian angel behind the scenes.”

The members of Southern Avenue all participate in the writing of the music and lyrics for the songs they perform and record.  And, their lyrics are particularly known for their uplifting, inspirational messages.  For example, “Don’t Give Up” advises “When it hurts real bad, don’t give up…just trust yourself” and “Keep On” reinforces that idea with, “There ain’t no healing in giving up.  Push harder with your mind and soul…you’ve got to have stamina.”  Tierinii explained her philosophy about songwriting:

“I think that because music is a universal language, you hold a real responsibility as a musician for the messages you put out into the world–into the universe.  With that responsibility you have to put good out there, just to be on the right side of the balance of things.  It’s a responsibility to cheer people on and lift their spirits.”

Ori elaborated further:

“That’s what blues and soul music is all about.  We always end up writing about something emotional.  Maybe to our detriment.  Tierinii is an amazing lyricist.  She takes day-to-day experiences and turns it into poetry. Every time she feels angry, upset, or sad she turns it into writing a song that is positive. And issues, like what is happening in Memphis, are the real issues we take on.  We’re nonpolitical.  We believe we are all the same and that peace will come.  We aren’t here to take a political position.  We’re just trying to make everybody’s journey better.”

TK has recently begun a solo project which also takes on important social issues.  She released a single under simply the name Tikyra.  That funk/soul single, entitled, “No More Fear” speaks about the need to put an end to the racism and oppression plaguing this country.

imageAdditionally, Ori started a blog, which is available through a link on their website and also provides inspiration to others at times.  In that blog he mentions his belief that he has failed more often than he succeeded.

“Failure equals success, it’s just a matter of time.  You have to fail to finally succeed, so that means you succeeded the whole time.  That’s how I see it anyway.  To me there is no failure.  I’ve failed so many times, so I can’t let it get to me.”

Tierinii added her perspective on the topic of failure:

“Failure is part of the journey.  You learn about your strengths and weaknesses from it.  You take it with you and gather this learning until you get it right.  You have to keep going and be self-aware, and not be a know-it-all.  We’re all human, no matter how good we have it, we have to struggle.  I could have all the money in the world and still have problems with anxiety.  We have to build ourselves up.  We are our biggest challenges.  We’re our hardest critics.  It’s not us against the world, it is us against ourselves.”

Southern Avenue has had numerous wonderful opportunities, including playing in Spain, Australia, touring with Los Lobos, and playing various types of music cruises.  While they are extremely appreciative of all those opportunities, they described a special fondness for the Legendary Blues Cruise, created by Roger Nabor.  Ori explained why this cruise is particularly special to them.

“There is nothing like the Legendary Blues Cruise.  It’s Roger’s party and we’re the special guests.  He takes such good care of us, and the lineup is so good.  And then there is the camaraderie around the boat.  Roger is creating moments in the blues industry that he is not even fully aware of.  Steve Berlin, from Los Lobos, (whom we met on the Blues Cruise), produced our last album and that only happened because of the LRBC. Conrad, their bass player, came to me and said we’re going to do shows together, and a month later their agent contacted us to give us dates and we went on tour with them.  The LRBC created that.”

While some other cruises have a special dining area for the musicians, the members of Southern Avenue appreciate being able to mingle with fans while on the LRBC.  Tierinii noted the following:

“What I love most about it is you get to learn the fans by name because you spend a week with them, eating dinner and hanging out.  It’s a really special thing.”  Ori added “we want to be with the fans at the buffet.  And because they know that they will see you all week, fans are not as stressed to talk to you.”

The group’s members also expressed appreciation for the numerous jam sessions that occur on the LRBC, particularly Chuk Barber’s late night Soul Lounge.  TK, who is featured in the large photo banner in the Soul Lounge, discussed how the Soul Lounge came about.

image“Chuk Barber was one of the ones running the jam and a few of us came and we did songs we all grew up listening to that weren’t blues.  It brought in the craziest people and stories.  Chuk was able to make it a regular thing.  Now it is part of the cruise—a soul jam thing.  Even the guys that play for ship’s band join us.”

Chuk, (who happened to be passing by where the interview was held and briefly joined), noted that the fans especially love when Jeremy comes down to join the late-night jam.

“Jeremy will come down and we’ll have a vibe, but when he comes the vibe will change.  He’s very hip.  Much hipper than what we were doing before he got there.  He’s as Memphis as you get.  He’ll look around like he’s saying, ‘let me fix this,’ and he will.”

Southern Avenue was recently nominated for a Blues Music Award for Band of the Year.  Tierinii expressed that she was very honored by this acknowledgement, particularly since they are not strictly a blues band.

“It made me feel good.  It makes me feel like people appreciate us and respect what we do.  I know there are probably a lot of blues purists in that group and we offer a variety of soul music that happens to be bluesy.  The fact that they are rooting for us so hard means they respect what we’re doing, and that makes me very, very happy.”

Southern Avenue had been following an exhausting schedule of shows which required them to travel long distances between shows at a pace that could not be maintained.  They are looking forward to cutting back to a more ‘normal’ pace.  Ori explained:

“We were extreme.  We would play two weeks in Europe and come back and do one weekend and then go right back to Europe.  We would say yes to any offer because we wanted to be everywhere.  We have no regrets.  We know we were very blessed and we’re very thankful for every opportunity, but we just can’t keep zig-zagging all over Europe like we were.  We’ll still have lots of shows, but now, for example, we’ll get two weeks off after traveling back from Australia, so we don’t burn ourselves out.  And we’re working on a new album.  Since we write together you can’t just do that on the road between shows.  Having a little more time off this year will mainly be for the writing.  We’re trying to create those amazing moments on records.  We’re also going to include more cover songs on this next album.  We’ve  proven our originality with all of the original songs on prior albums.  Now we want to pay respect and show what we can do with other people’s music too.”

Fans are no doubt anxiously awaiting that next album.  And, if you attend a Southern Avenue show you will see why they earned that Blues Music Award nomination for Band of the Year, and why Chuk Barber describes them in the following manner.

“They’re hot.  I love their organic nature.  It’s like pure Memphis, but with other influences in it.  And they’re family.  You just can’t get any tighter than that.”

You can check out Southern Avenue’s music and 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.


 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

imageJimi “Primetime” Smith & Bob Corritore – World in a Jug

VizzTone Label Group/Southwest Music Arts Foundation VT-SWMAF-24

10 songs – 43 minutes

Two native Chicagoans with deep roots in the blues, guitarist/vocalist Jimi “Primetime” Smith and harp player Bob Corritore now call the Phoenix, Ariz., area home, where they’ve worked together frequently since reconnecting in the Southwest seven years ago. But they team on a full-length CD for the first time with this pleasing album, a star-studded effort chockful of plenty of Windy City appeal.

Jimi’s son of the legendary Johnnie Mae Dunson, who began her career as a drummer and gutbucket singer on Maxwell Street in the 1940s, wrote songs with both Muddy Waters and bandmate Jimmy Reed, worked with Willie Dixon and others and was an annual fixture at the Chicago Blues Festival prior to passing at age 86 in 2007. Reed taught him how to play six-string when living in the family’s home.

Now in his early 60s, a Minnesota Blues Hall of Famer and a booming baritone vocalist, Smith worked for years in support of Etta James, Albert King, Otis Rush, Bernard Allison and others before debuting as a front man in 1998 with Give Me Wings on the Atomic Theory imprint and Back on Track on Cold Wind in 2007. In the years since, he’s been a first-call session musician for John Primer, Sugaray Rayford, Johnny Rawls and others.

One of the most frequently recorded artists in the blues today and a product of Chicago’s north suburbs, Corritore’s a self-taught harmonica player who cut his teeth playing behind Tail Dragger and Willie Buck on the city’s West Side. Based in Phoenix since 1981, he’s owned and operated The Rhythm Room – one of the most important stops on the blues highway – for the past 32 years.

All of the material here was captured between 2017 and 2020 at either Tempest Recording in Tempe or live at The Rhythm Room. Jimi provides guitar and vocals on all tracks along with Bob on harp in a lineup that includes Henry Gray, Fred Kaplan and Shea Marshall on keys, Johnny Rapp and Patrick Skog on guitars, Bob Stroger, Yahni Riley, Troy Sandow and Tony Tomlinson on bass, and Brian Fahey, Marty Dotson and Allen West on drums. Celia King and Eboni McDonald provide backing vocals and Doug James sits in on sax on one cut.

“I Got the World in a Jug,” first released on the Magic label by Dunson and Reed in 1963, opens atop a driving shuffle with Smith declaring: “I’ve got all of you women right here under my command” as Corritore rips and runs with fat single-note runs and chords in support. The action slows for the stop-time, Freddie King pleaser, “Love Her with a Feeling,” before the action ticks up a notch or two for “You for Me,” a Jimi original that borrows heavily from Reed’s “You Don’t Have to Go” complete with Bob working the high end of the reeds.

The medium-fast shuffle, “Blinded,” gives Corritore plenty of space mid-tune to show off his chops on chromatic before the sound takes a major shift with “In a Spin,” a quiet, Latin-tinged ballad on which the focus centers on Smith’s voice before a haunting solos that open on harp and close on guitar and include tasty organ runs from Marshall. “Soul Food” – a sprightly rocker first recorded by Rex Garvin & the Mighty Cravers in 1963 – precedes “Walkin’,” another number with traditional West Side Chicago flair.

Originally the B-side of the song that opened, Reed and Dunson’s “We Got to Stick Together” kicks off with a solitary guitar run. It’s a molasses-slow shuffle that flows into “Fire and Ice,” which comes across with Muddy Waters feel, before the rapid-fire “Southbound” urges a lady to climb aboard for a trip down South atop a rolling railroad shuffle to close.

If you’re a fan of old-school blues, you’ll love this one. Traditional to the core, it’s as old-school never boring and always fresh.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8 

imageVarious artists – Home Town Skiffle: Matchbox Bluesmaster Series Set 10

Saydisc Matchbox Bluesmaster Records MSESET10

78 songs – 236 minutes on 6 CDs

A label that specializes in music from all corners of the globe, Britain’s Saydisc Records made a splash in the 1980s with the release of its Matchbox Bluesmaster series – 42 richly annotated LPs that captured first-generation bluesmen laying down the foundation for what fans around the world enjoy today. If you missed out on them then, you can enjoy them now through their reissue as ten reasonably priced, six-CD sets, of which this is the final installment.

The series debuted in 2021 with Country Blues & Ragtime Blues Guitar 1926-30, which featured the works of Texas Alexander, Peg Leg Howell, Buddy Boy Hawkins, Papa Harvey Hull and a dozen other artists, all of whom sounded as if they were playing in your living room. While the music on this one contains a wealth of material, its primary focus is Piedmont blues giant Blind Boy Fuller and harmonica pioneer Sonny Boy Williamson, both of whom recorded into the ‘40s, before shifting focus to early female vocalists and then concluding with a healthy sampling of tunes that spanned the pre-War blues and folk spectrum.

Accompanying each of the discs are the same extensive liner notes – penned by Tony Russell and David Harrison — that appeared on the original pressings and provide a rich background into the artists and their works, all of which are packaged in the 32-page accompanying booklet.

Discs One and Two – originally issued as Blind Boy Fuller on Down Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 – put the spotlight on one of the most influential six-string stylists of the era. A South Carolina native who left us in the early 40s at age 36, his melodic attack rings true from the opening of “What’s That Smells Like Fish” to the closing notes of “Where My Woman Usta Lay” on the first CD, which contains 12 other classic numbers, including “Weeping Willow,” “Get Your Yas Yas Out” – with backing from Sonny Terry and Bull City Red, “Corrine” and “Mean and No Good Woman.”

The second set includes two more Fuller standards, “Walking and Looking Blues” and “Working Man Blues,” but the focus shifts quickly to artists he influenced, including Buddy Moss, Blind Gary Davis, Sonny Jones, Ralph Willis, Dan Pickett and Curley Weaver along with Brownie McGhee, who recorded in that period as “Blind Boy Fuller No. 2.”

Disc Three – first released as Sonny Boy and His Pals – displays the evolution of the raw country sound to what we now recognize as the modern blues sound. Williamson shows his talent on harp and vocals through the first seven tracks with backing from future superstar guitarist Big Bill Broonzy, pianists Walter and Blind John Davis, bassist Ransom Knowling and others before stepping into the background in support of mandolinist/vocalist Yank Rachell for six cuts and then Big Joe Williams on the closer.

Women come to the forefront on Disc Four – Those Cakewalking Babies from Home, which includes two stellar songs each from Lucille Bogan and Memphis Minnie. But the bulk of the set shines a light on several ladies whose careers have been obscured by time, including Sara Martin, who fronted a jug band, and vocalists Bernice Edwards, Madlyn Davis, Lulu Jackson, Mae Glover, Gladys Bentley and Annie Turner in lineups that include appearances from pianist Little Brother Montgomery, Tampa Red and Georgia Tom.

Discs Five and Six – Skoodle Um Skoo: Early Folk Blues Vol. 1 and Home Town Skiffle: Early Folk Blues Vol. 2 – provide an extensive sampling that turns back the clock even farther and gives a listen to what Russell terms “the pre-history of the blues.” Among the highlights are appearances from Stovepipe No. 1, a novelty act who doubled on guitar and harp, vaudeville banjo star Charlie Jackson, Walter Jackson and the Carter Brothers – the precursor to the Mississippi Sheiks – who appear in all their glory on the closing CD, Blind Blake – billed as Billy James in one of his final recordings, the Beale Street Sheiks – and other top talents.

Home Town Skiffle is a treat for anyone with an interest in pre-War 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.


 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

imageBurt Feintuch – Creole Soul: Zydeco Lives

University Of Mississippi Press

280 Pages Hardcover edition

The word Zydeco has an exotic ring to it. The truth is the word springs from the Creole culture of Louisiana. The word Creole can have a number of different meanings, but most often is used to refer to people of color whose ancestors came from those bound in slavery as well as those who manage to attain “free” status. For these people, zydeco music is their cultural heritage. For anyone who has ever heard a real zydeco band in all of it’s glory, Zydeco simply means having a damn good time, and dancing, lots and lots of dancing.

Author Burt Feintuch fell under the sway of the music, leading him to explore the music on its home turf. He quickly discovered that Louisiana gets the majority of attention when the music is under discussion, but there is an equally ardent fan base in Texas, primarily in the Houston area. Feintuch decided to document the current scope of the music across the two states, highlighting artists who are the torchbearers today, or at least in 2015-2017 time frame during which he conducted the interviews that are the heart of this work.

The book is a true labor of love. The pages are printed on heavy stock, glossy paper, which allows the photographs spread throughout the book to jump off the page in all of their full color glory. Most are the work of Gary Sanson, with some done by the author. Whether a portrait style shot, or a photo catching a musician in full flight on stage, the photographs are tasteful gems that give life and extra meaning to the printed word. Feintuch utilizes the question/answer format, giving each artist plenty of space to tell their story.

As he worked towards finishing the book, the author was diagnosed with brain cancer. After an operation, he was undergoing treatments when he lost his life due to an accident at home. It fell to his close friend and Editor, Jeannie Banks Thomas, to make final decisions on content and to fulfill Feintuch’s final wish that his book would be completed.

After some words from Thomas and an introduction from the author, the stories began. The book is divided into two sections. The first delves into the Texas scene, with Ed Poullard leading the way, describing a common theme of growing up in a musical family, learning how to play the accordion. Poullard utilizes the diatonic style, with 12 buttons, which limits what can be done, but packs a real punch. There are also three button row models. Some players favor the chromatic accordion, or piano key model, which has a full twelve note scale. The King of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier, played the chromatic in order to be able to play the blue tones he wanted to hear in his music. Poullard is partial to the sounds of the past. In addition to being an expert on accordion and fiddle, he makes beautiful diatonic accordions, combining his love of music with his skills as a woodworker. A photo of three of his instruments on Page 49 illustrates the beauty of his intricate work.

Two more chapters highlight several stars of the Texas trailride circuit, Step Rideau & the Zydeco Outlaws and Brian Jack & the Zydeco Gamblers . Extremely popular at the time, trailrides are like-minded people going horseback riding by day, then eating and drinking at night while a zydeco band does it’s best to keep the dancers motivated. The idea so popular that there are numerous rides every weekend in the greater Houston area. At the time, several artist commented that they were making a great living playing ride events. It paid well, kept travel to a minimum, and the people love the music.

For Jerome Batiste, he likes the older style with a twist, keeping his music clean for family enjoyment. Some artists have injected elements of rap and hip-hop into the zydeco mix, which appeals to younger generations but can alienate the older listeners, who comprise a major portion of trailride die-hards. Ruben Moreno loves the music as much as anyone, but lays out the issues he has faced gaining acceptance with his mixed-race heritage. He also provides a telling rundown about the difference in sound between Texas and Louisiana artists.

The next section highlights Louisiana artists, all of whom are the latest musician in each of their family’s lineage. Lawrence “Black” Ardoin is an accordion player schooled by his father, Alphonse “Bois Sec” Ardoin, who recorded classic music with fiddler Canray Fontenot. He remembers a bygone era when he spent time with Chenier and Boozoo Chavis, another zydeco legend. Many artists also give praise to Beau Jocque, the man who was changing the sound of the music without sacrificing the traditional elements, until his tragic death from a heart attack. His band never failed to fill the dance floor, with a driving sound that kicked like the finest stallion.

Continuing in the family, Lawrence’s son, Sean, gets his own chapter, showing respect for his father’s legacy while acknowledging his understanding of the business aspects of being a Zydeco artist, trying to appease one faction who wants the traditional sound while realizing that a stagnant music is a dying music. One thing for sure, he works hard to avoid being categorized. Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers have a high energy live show that entertains while offering a driving sound that delights the dancers.

Leroy Thomas and his accordion manage to stay close to home, working steady while playing to a predominantly white audience of locals and tourists. His father was the only drummer to front a zydeco band. Corey Ledet is a masterful musician who was born in Houston, but moved to Louisiana after his high school graduation to immerse himself in the Creole culture. He has released several critically acclaimed albums that prove the soundness of his decision.

Moving through the book, several common themes emerge. As noted earlier, zydeco fans are split as to which approach offers the most appeal – sticking closely to the traditions or welcoming change as other musical influences make their presence felt. The popularity of the trailrides provides a number of the artists with a steady income, while others see that culture changing, and not for the best, as younger people get involved without any real respect for the culture. It is interesting to read how each of the artists assesses their place in the zydeco domain. And of course, there is the eternal debate on which style accordion is the best.

All told, this beautiful package contains a wealth of knowledge on the world of zydeco. Feintuch made a wise choice to focus on the current scene rather than limiting his focus on the giants of the music that are no longer among us. Those legends still get their due with respect from each of the artists interviewed. And readers will surely be exposed to some key players, particularly from Texas, who have been flying under the radar. The book is indeed brimming with ‘Creole Soul,” and makes it abundantly clear that Zydeco music has carved out a niche that will carry on the traditions for future generations. Highly recommended to all music fans!

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying the sun and retirement. He is the past President of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and a former member of the Board of Directors for the Blues Foundation. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!

 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 8 

imageVoodoo Ramble – Can’t Write A Pop Song (When You’ve Got The Blues)

Thoroughbred Music – 2022

13 tracks; 50 minutes

In what is perhaps a first for Blues Blast, this is a review of a Croatian band. Voodoo Ramble have been going since 2010 under the guidance of lead singer, guitarist and songwriter Boris Dugi-Novacki (or Zamba, as he he is known). Joining Zamba here are guitarist Sinisa Drobnjak, bassist Nino Krznar and drummer Mario Klaric, plus backing vocals from Klementina Vodusek, Zoran Puljek, Mario Jagec and Galic Ivana (who also sings lead on one track). Horns appear on one track (Bajevic Zvonimir on trumpet, Ivica Premelc on tenor sax and Marin Ferketin on trombone) and Neven Resnik adds keyboards to two cuts. Zamba wrote all the songs, with assistance on the lyrics of seven songs from London-based promoter and music writer Pete Feenstra.

Zamba sings very well, little or no trace of accent, and delivers the songs well. “Born On The Road” is a terrific rocker with slide and strong choral vocals over a powerful riff, the whole reminding you of vintage Doobie Brothers, a good start. The title track is a catchy song, again with slide to the fore, rather ironically achieving what the title suggests cannot be done before the pace drops for “I Know It’s You” the echoey guitar work and Zamba’s vocals bringing Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” to mind. Ivana sings “Out Of This World”, horns and backing vocals adding to the chorus, another attractive tune with the dobro solo a nice addition.

Zamba declares that he is “Too Bad For Heaven, Too Good For Hell” on a heavy rocker, “London Town” has some similarity to The Clash song of similar title and “Keep Your Heart” is a mid-paced rocker with acoustic guitar running through the mix and another strong slide solo. “Stitch In Time” and “Man In Doubt” are both Classic Rock, strong guitars, pumping bass and pounding drums, before the last two songs change things up a bit: “Down Home” adds a touch of country that suits the lyrics about “country livin’, guitar pickin’” and “Always On The Run” is a stately guitar instrumental with plenty of synth strings/keyboards in support. The album also contains radio edits of “I Know It’s You” and “Too Bad For Heaven, Too Good For Hell”, both slightly shorter than the earlier versions.

This is definitely a Rock album, not Blues, but if you were brought up on 70’s Rock you should enjoy it.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.


 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

imageMark “Pocket” Goldberg – Off-Balance Blues

Self released

12 songs, 46 minutes

Mark “Pocket” Goldberg is a Southern California bassist who has played with a truly dizzying list of Blues musicians ranging from royalty to regional. On his 2nd solo effort Off-Balance Blues Goldberg brings his thumping bass and big man yowl to a set of 12 original Blues songs. In spite of being based in So Cal, the home of rough hewn swinging Blues, Goldberg presents a mixed pack of various Blues styles working his way through Chicago rumbles to Detroit solo electric guitar haunts down through some Texas shuffling and back to his West Coast swing.

Pocket Goldberg’s bass and lead vocals are accompanied by an excellent crew of musicians. Debra Dobkin is on drums and background vocals, Nick Kirgo on guitar and background vocals, Bill Bates on guitar, Dave Kida on drums, Billy Watts on rhythm guitar and Benny Yee on Hammond organ.

Album opener “A Matter of Time” starts simply with a nice slide intro. Then Michael Fell on harmonica kicks in with the band and stomps, giving Pocket “the chills all up and down my spine.” Unfortunately musicians are not listed by track in the promotional info sent along for review. But, special guest Junior Watson certainly brings his distinctive West Coast guitar wail to the swinging “Babblin’ Blues.” “Face in Disguise” has a feel good Adult Contempo Keb’ Mo/Bonnie Raitt vibe in which Pocket drops some pretense from built up emotional roadblocks. The funky minor key “Lookin’ for Insults” slinks through. Album closing title track is that solo electric guitar and voice breakdown ending the proceedings with a nice post script.

Pocket Goldberg wrote, or co-wrote, all the songs on this album. Earnestly presenting some very personal truths and observations, the lyric content does veer into some worn clichés and platitudes. But the music is so well executed and Goldberg’s distinct gruff delivery makes the music flow regardless. Off-Balance Blues is an impressive clinic in Blues styles performed with honesty and facili

Writer Bucky O’Hare is a slide guitarist, songwriter and singer. Based out of South Eastern Massachusetts, Bucky plays Slide Guitar Soul Jazz and Funk Blues inspired by the music of the 60’s and 70’s all around New England.


 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

imageMiss Emily – Defined By Love

Self-Release – 2022

12 tracks; 45 minutes

Miss Emily (Emily Fennell) is from Ontario, Canada, and has been making music since the beginning of the millennium. However, under the ‘Miss Emily’ moniker this is her fourth album release, following studio albums in 2011 and 2017, plus a live compilation put together during the pandemic. For this album she recorded with Steve Marriner (MonkeyJunk) at the controls. The band is Jim Bowskill on guitar, Steve O’Connor on keys, Seamus Cowan on bass and Rob Radford or Ian McKeown on drums; Tom Moffett (trumpet), Bunny Stewart and Andrew Moljgun (saxes) appear on four tracks. Emily is on lead vocals (and piano on one cut) and backing vocals come from Ben Vandergaast, Steve Marriner, Quisha Wint and Lynn Fennell. Rob Baker adds guitar to a track that he co-wrote and Steve steps out from behind the glass to play the guitar solo on one track. The material is all original apart from two covers.

Emily has a strong and clear voice but readers need to be warned that although there are some good songs and the album is well produced there is scant blues here. The two covers perhaps reveal some of Emily’s influences: The Trews are a Canadian rock band and their song “To The End Of The World” is a gentle ballad with nice harmonies; the far better known Radiohead are the source of “Just” which pounds along over a strong guitar riff supported by the horns. The closest we get to blues is “Make It Rain”, a title familiar from John Hiatt’s and Foy Vance’s songs of the same title. This one, however, is Emily’s own song about redemption and renewal with a powerful lead vocal and good harmonies, the horns in discreet support on the choruses.

The remaining tracks include catchy Americana like the title track which has a soaring repetitive chorus and “Silver Lining” with its upbeat, positive vibe; keys and horns give a slight New Orleans feel to “Friends, Lovers, Foes” and “Glory” provides a good vehicle for Emily’s towering vocal. Emily includes several stripped-back ballads, like her memoir to someone who somehow never quite achieved what they might have; perhaps they have “One Song Left”, as Emily accompanies herself on piano over a string arrangement performed by guitarist Jim Bowskill. In similar style, “Three Words” is another piano-led song full of angst and “The Keeper” also sounds doom-laden, Emily accompanied just by co-writer Rob Baker on guitar, as she sings that “I’m holding space for you”.

This is one that committed blues fans can leave aside, but those whose tastes also include Americana with strong female vocals may unearth a gem here.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.

 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8 

imageFabrizio Poggi – Basement Blues

Appaloosa Records AP 267-2

13 songs – 56 minutes

Fabrizio Poggi soared into the upper stratosphere of the American blues scene in 2018, earning a spot in the finals of the Grammys along with Guy Davis for Sonny & Brownie’s Last Train. But the Italian harmonica ace has been making sweet music at home for decades prior to his recent acclaim – something that becomes crystal clear with a listen to this disc, the 25th album in his catalog.

Based out of Milan, Fabrizio has been fronting the band Chicken Mambo since the mid-1990s but he’s no stranger to the U.S., with a career that includes appearing at Carnegie Hall, Mississippi juke joints and everything in between while working and recording with a wide range of talents that includes Texans Ruthie Foster, Carolyn Wonderland, W.C. Clark and Lavelle White along with Mike Zito, Bob Margolin and Eric Bibb, too.

This disc, which is culled in different settings from outtakes from studio and live sets between 2008 and 2015 is no different. Davis, Ronnie Earl and Garth Hudson of The Band all make appearances along with guitarist Enrico Polverari, Fabrizio’s frequent playing partner and friend. And if you’re wondering, it’s no mistake that Poggi pays tribute to The Band’s original The Basement Tapes LP and Big Pink, the studio where it was recorded. The idea came after he received a scale model of the building as a gift from his wife, Angelina, who snapped the cover image.

Recorded live and in studio in settings that range from full band to duo, the lineup includes appearances from guitarist Maurizio Fassino, mandolinist Francesco Garolfi, accordionist Bobby J. Sacchi, bassists Roberto Re and Tino Cappelletti, organist/bassist Stefano Spina, organists Stefano Resca and Lorenzo Bovo and drummer Stefano Bertolotti. And Hudson’s wife, Maud, sits in on backing vocals.

An eclectic mix of six originals primarily paired with tunes from the pre-War era, the action kicks off with a gentle rendering of Rev. Thomas Dorsey’s “Precious Lord” in partnership with Polverari. Fabrizio’s sweet, subtle work on the reeds is masterful to open before his lyrics – which are delivered with only the slightest accent of his homeland – follow suit. Davis is on guitar and vocals for a barebones, take on Willie Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster” to follow with Poggi chording on harp and adding Sonny Terry-style whoops for an appreciative American audience.

The sprightly original, “Midnight Train,” finds Fabrizio doubling on harp and guitar in full-band setting before teaming with Garth on six-string and organ in a well-conceived eight-piece arrangement of the traditional “John the Revelator.” Earl joins the action on acoustic guitar for “Your Light,” a Poggi original that advises folks to keep on shining no matter what other people say or want you to do, before Davis returns in duet for a live take on his slow-blues original, “Black Coffee.”

A quiet but powerful acoustic-trio reading of Blind Willie Johnson’s “The Soul of a Man” precedes the languorous “Blues for Charlie,” an electrified instrumental original that gives Fabrizio plenty of space to shine, before he and Ronnie take you to church with a stripped-down take on Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s gospel standard “Up Above My Head.”

The sound explodes with “Boogie for John Lee Hooker,” which follows in an electrified, five-piece setting, before Davis and Poggi double-team Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” an outtake from their BMA-nominated Juba Dance CD, and two more originals — “I’m on the Road Again” and “Hole in Your Soul,” both featuring Polverari – bring the action to a close.

An interesting aural tapestry from start to finish, Fabrizio’s Basement Tapes finally get the listen they deserve.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 8 

imageRev. John – Strange Things – The Blues According to Rev. John

Bluestown Records

11 tracks/46 minutes

Norway’s only “Blues Reverend” returns with a new album of Strange Things – The Blues According to Rev. John. John was an actual pastor who cut his music career short in the 1970s to study theology and do the Lord’s work. Having spent many years in Skein, Norway, he also ventured to Bogota, Colombia to rehabilitate addicts and  talk to drug lords in the cartels. This is where he discovered the blues. He returned to Skein in Telmark county and became part of the blues community there.

John Ultveldt is Rev. John; he plays keys and sings. Trond Ytterbo and  Tobias Flottorp Heltzer handle the guitars. Heltzer also plays bass and is one of the backing vocalists. Arne Steinar Myrvang is on drums and percussion. And also does backing vocals. Ytterbo is the other backing vocalist. There are six original tunes written by Rev. John, one Dylan song, one Eric Bibb tune and the others are traditional pieces.

“The Devil’s Music” begins the set. Solid B3 organ by the Rev is featured here. He sings with a haunting style and accent. “In Love With The Blues” is next, a shuffle that is a cool song with a great groove. Organa and guitar solos  are solid and well done. “Out Of Time” is a bouncing and jumping song with more sweet organ and guitar work. These first songs are all originals.

Up next is “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” a tune with a heavy beat and steady guitar, piano and B3. A traditional cut, John does a nice job with it. The original “Visit Chicago” is another haunting tune with organ, stinging guitar and a bit of funkiness to it. “Strange Things” follows, another traditional cover that bounces, jumps and jives. A big piano solo is included here as the band replies to the Rev’s calls.

“Saving Grace” is the Bob Dylan cover, a somber and solemn piece that the organ takes us to church on.  The next tow are originals, “The Robber” and “You Can’t Sing.” The former is a commentary on global warming while the latter is a cut about how he must go on and sing on to get his blues word out.

Eric Bibb’s “Don’t Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down” is next, a slow and thoughtful piece with some restrained harp added and, of course, nicely done organ and guitar. The Gospel cut “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” concludes the album. Slide guitar, organ, and piano again take us to church. John sings with feeling.

Rev. John has now released five albums under his name since 2002. He and his band are a mix of experienced and younger musicians from Notodden, Norway, who are tight and do an exceptional job together musically. John’s vocals have a lilting accent and he uses some processing here and there to mix things up. John mixes up his spirituality and music to deliver eleven interesting and well crafted cuts. If you are looking for something a little off the beaten path, then this might be your cup of tea.

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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