Issue 18-21 May 23, 2024

Cover photo © 2024 Peter Hurley

 In This Issue 

Peter Hurley has our feature interview with Chicago Bluesman Jimmy Burns. We have six Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Long Road Home, Rick Estrin and the Night Cats, Tokyo Tramps, Bobby Christina’s Caravan, Buenos Diaz and Jennifer Lyn & The Groove Revival. Scroll down and check it out!

 From The Editor’s Desk 


Hey Blue Fans,

The submissions for the 17th Annual Blues Blast Awards close Friday May 31st. Albums released between June 1. 2023 and May 31, 2024 are eligible this year.

Submit your music now. Click this link:

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6 

imageLong Road Home – Are We Invisible? 

SongCraft Records

11 tracks; 48 minutes

Long Road Home’s debut album, Are We Invisible? (2023), strikes as a powerful, guitar-heavy blues rock album, with occasional notes of jazz and soul. Strong lyrics permeate the album, with social consciousness, love, heartbreak, and hardship painted throughout in a release of entirely original material.

The band formed in 2022, composed of friends who had toured and recorded together in different iterations since the late 1970’s.

The opening track “Long Road Home” sets the tone of the album with a heavy, blues rock sound that harkens Stevie Ray Vaughan. Lee Morrell provides rock steady drums, while Steve Summers displays an impressive guitar solo, with muscle, and Mike Sebbage sings about “going from town to town”, making his way back to his lover.

Among the strongest tracks on the LP, “What They Call the Blues”, starts with funky grooves and a lovely strangeness. Delicious guitar notes are simply delicious. The track slowly simmers, a clear raw expression from the soul that is smooth and goes down easy. Sebbage sings with emotion, “When you need somebody like a flower needs the sun, do you begin to wonder if it is the same for everyone?” Summers lets out inescapable moans and groans from the guitar, with blistering pace and feeling.

Omnipresent drums take the lead on “I Don’t Belong Here”, with groovy guitar along the lines of early Red Hot Chili Peppers drenched in funk. Written by Sebbage and Summers, the song contains surreal lyrics, about not belonging and a “life turned upside down.” Ian Salisbury enters a realm of his own on keyboards, in a universe dominated by funk. Summers’ journey on guitar is no less strange and exciting. Morell, as elsewhere, provides a steady core on drums.

The titular track of the album “Are We Invisible?” is an homage to the downtrodden and unseen, like the poor and the homeless. The keyboard and guitar project a slow, haunting groove as Sebbage proclaims “We are the people you cannot ignore. The ones you scrape up off the floor… are we invisible?” It is both a condemnation of how those with privilege and power act to the less fortunate (“I find it unforgivable.”) and a message of empowerment. The guitar and keyboards howl out in pain, as the band calls for people to “open up your eyes.”

Sweet and savory guitar kicks off “Whispering Rain”, demanding attention on one of the best tracks on the album. Sebbage’s’ voice is never better than here, low scarred, and yet with a touch of sweetness, of honey, calling out “Whispering rain. Don’t come here no more. Stay away from my door.” This track serves patient, bubbling blues, with guitar accents throughout and Summers’ straining, wallowing voice, giving a forceful plea.

“Gone Gone Gone” is the song of a broken hearted man learning to move on, after learning a lesson of love the hard way – “Your cheating ways brought me nothing but pain. You lie and steal… Now the time has come for me to live again.” Saucy keyboard accompanies buzzing guitar, creating a sound quite like the Black Keys at their bluesiest.

Deep, gnarly guitar graces the beginning of “I Lose Again”. Salisbury’s keyboards are irresistibly groovy and Summers shows himself to be a guitar virtuoso in a distorted, thick style, with lots of texture.

While not every song hits, and some come across as slightly cheesy or repetitive, Long Road Home delivers a solid release with Are We Invisible?, driven by heavy guitar, groovy keyboard, and authentic storytelling. The songwriting should be commended. Blues fans can only hope the group is working on their second release.

Writer Jack Austin, also known by his radio DJ name, Electric Chicken (y Pollo Electrico en Espanol), is a vinyl collector, music journalist, and musician originally from Pittsburgh.

 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 6 

imageRick Estrin and the Night Cats – The Hits Keep Coming

Alligator Records

12 Tracks 48 minutes

Any new recording by this band of musical savants is cause for rejoicing. This time Rick Estrin and his merry crew deliver a truly exceptional album steeped in the traditions, yet sounding ever so vibrant and inventive.

Of course, that task becomes easy with the talented Estrin leading the way with his witty, thought-provoking songwriting, hipster vocals, and plenty of his masterful blowing on an array of harmonicas. Kid Andersen has received numerous award nominations for his guitar playing. His contributions extend to playing bass on four tracks in addition to recording, producing, and mixing the record. Long-time member Lorenzo Farrell expertly fills out the arrangements on organ throughout the proceedings while the amazing Derrick “D’Mar” Martin lays down a steady stream of exuberant grooves.

Estrin calls us home from the start with some powerful blasts from his chromatic harp. The band lays down a percolating rhythm on “Somewhere Else,” with the leader’s sly lyrics providing a caring but firm push out the door. The title cut builds around Estrin’s moody sermonizing about the wretched state of the world, with the vocal contributions of the Sons Of The Soul Revivers adding to the other-worldly soundscape. The legendary Jerry Jemmott sets the pace with his usual dynamic bass line, one of six tracks he appears on.

“The Circus Is Still In Town (The Monkey Song)” was co-written by the Estrin and another fine harp ace, Jim Liban. The playful nature of music that would be right at home under the big top can’t hide the serious nature of this telling ode to the struggles of dealing with addiction. The mood briefly improves when Farrell cuts loose on the organ. Another Estrin original, “I Finally Hit The Bottom,” is a slow blues classic that finds him beginning to emerge from the emotional ravages of a love gone cold. Andersen does his best to push the healing process along with a blistering solo.

There is plenty of fun to be had on the breezy up-tempo romp, “911,” with Estrin at his wits end trying to deal with an abundance of good loving that that has him fearing for his health. The instrumental ‘Sack Of Kools” was penned by the entire band, but undoubtedly sparked by the State of California banning Andersen’s beloved Kool Menthol cigarettes. Estrin’s melodic chromatic harp solo flows into another impressive organ workout from Farrell, then Andersen does his best to calm his nerves with some beautifully constructed six string magic.

The band shifts gears on “I Ain’t Worried About Nothin’,” which certainly could serve as a tribute to Sonny Boy Williamson II as Estrin proudly dissects the advantages of a life of freedom, only to have the facade come tumbling down with a telling comment at the end. Troubles are still nipping at his heels on “Learn To Lose,” a minor key lesson in the art of living. Farrell helped compose another haunting slow blues, “Time For Me To Go,” giving Estrin one more opportunity to ponder life as viewed at the back end. One thing for sure, he remains one of the finest harp players on the planet.

The band indulges in two covers. One from Muddy Waters, “Diamonds At Her Feet,” makes perfect sense. Farrell takes over on bass as the band sets a jaunty pace. Estrin burns through another magnificent chromatic harp excursion that lights a fire under Andersen, who responds with explosive runs of lightning-quick phrases. Leonard Cohen’s moody ballad, “Everybody Knows,” may seem like a strange selection, but the song’s dark nature is a natural fit with the rest of the album. Andersen’s acoustic guitar work and backing vocals from the Sons of the Soul Revivers provide the perfect accompaniment for Estrin’s forlorn vocal turn, making this track a standout performance.

The final track, ‘Whatever Happened To Dobie Strange,” finds Jerry Jemmott laying down a funky bass line while Estrin waxes nostalgic over one of the drummers for Little Charlie & the Nightcats from back in the day. Estrin pokes fun at some of the odd questions that come from fans, including the inevitable mix-up between him and the late Charlie Baty. D’Mar adds some hilarious asides, with other contributions from Charlie Musselwhite, Bob Welsh, Lisa Leuschner Andersen, and Marty Dodson.

With their sixth album on Alligator Records, Estrin & the Nightcats once again prove that the blues can be fun, sounding modern without foregoing the traditional roots. The world would indeed be a better place if more artists could rise to the level of songwriting that Estrin has achieved. And when music this good is performed by four masters of their instruments, it is cause for celebration, making this album highly recommended!

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!

 Blues Blast Music Awards Submissions 

Submissions from artists and labels for the 17th Annual Blues Blast Music Awards end on May 31st, 2024.

Albums released between June 1. 2023 and May 31, 2024 are eligible this year.

Submit your music now. Click this link:

 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 6 

imageTokyo Tramps – Fearless Heart

Vagabond Entertainment – 2023

10 tracks; 38 minutes 24 seconds.

With their 7th LP release, Fearless Heart, the Tokyo Tramps deliver an album as steeped in punk and rock as it is in the blues. The group describe themselves as American roots fanatics from Japan, forming as a blues group in Boston, in 1999, releasing their first album Long Way Home just a year later.

Tokyo Tramps is the project of Satoru Nakagawa (guitar and vocals) and Yukiko Fujii (bass and vocals), with players stepping in over the years. Josh Dion appears on drums and percussion, and along with impressive slide guitar, Jim Weider delivers a smoothly produced recording.

Fujii’s vocals evoke a Patti Smith or Chrissie Hynde on “Where Did You Hide Your Love?”, a good rocking tune with a kick ass drum sequence halfway through. Only a tinge of blues comes through, and the group resembles the more pop oriented releases of Fleetwood Mac as Fujii cries out “Where did you hide your love? I didn’t get enough.”

Unconventional percussion starts off “Blues Leave Me Alone”, one of the strongest on the album. Nakagawa delivers strong, fluid, and deep vocals, simultaneously letting gnarly blues guitar leak out. The guitar goes off on a path of its own, forging a path wicked and unrelenting. The catchy and danceable song sings of rejection, denial, and poverty. Nakagawa belts “I drive around to pass time in my car/ With a broken heart and my guitar… the blues won’t leave me alone.”

Flashy guitar opens “Heart of Life”, a song exploring the essence and meaning of life. Fujii’s vocals come across with strength, compassion, moxy, and gumption. Ultimately, the song is about being lost, not knowing where to go. The chorus is deadly catchy and while the guitar tries to do too much at times, the storytelling and feeling in Fujii’s voice compensate.

Uptempo drums and groovy guitar chords create a rocking atmosphere on the second track, “The Mississippi and New Orleans”. Nakagawa and Fujii are completely in sync, exchanging violent, charged lyrics, in good punk-rock fashion, singing about “Saints and sinners all gather at the river.” The tune is infused with energy, a song of good times, of reveling in the wild and the untamable human spirit. If I had to gander, I would say the Sex Pistols would approve.

Nakagawa wrote 8 of the 10 songs on the album individually and collaborated with Fujii on writing “Where Did You Hide Your Love?” and “Heart of Life?”. The lead guitarist shows clear lyrical abilities, proving to be a true troubadour.

Occasionally, the band slips into an inauthentic sound, pushing a guitar solo too far. Nakagawa’s voice is variable, and doesn’t always hit. All that said, the Tokyo Tramps provide a fascinating and exciting take on American blues and roots, heavily drenched in punk rock. The band’s passion for American music and the blues pours through.

Writer Jack Austin, also known by his radio DJ name, Electric Chicken (y Pollo Electrico en Espanol), is a vinyl collector, music journalist, and musician originally from Pittsburgh.


 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 6 

imageBobby Christina’s Caravan – The Legacy of Matt “Guitar” Murphy

Nola Blue Records

24 tracks (2 cd’s) – 1 hour, 23 minutes

Matt “Guitar” Murphy was born in Sunflower, Mississippi on December 29, 1929. He was raised in Memphis but moved to Chicago at age 19. He worked with many of the era’s Chicago blues musicians including Holwin’ Wolf, Memphis Slim, and Little Junior Parker. In the 1990’s he became the guitarist for harpist James Cotton. But he gained much fame as he joined The Blues Brother’s band and appeared with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in the movie about the band. He recorded his first solo album Way Down South in 1990 and followed that up with two additional albums in 1996 and 2000. But in 2000 he suffered a series of strokes forcing a retirement from music.  But after considerable rehab, he returned to the stage to play at the 2010 Chicago Blues festival with James Cotton. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2012. In 2018, he started work on a new album with drummer and producer Bobby Christina.

Bobby Christina has forty years of musical background starting with watching his older brother Fran Christina on drums practicing in the basement with his friends Al Copley on piano, Duke Robillard on guitar and Larry Peduzzi on bass – the original Roomful of Blues. The Westerly, Rhode Island native at age 15 got some of his brother’s hand me down drums and continued on his own career which led him to perform with Matt in over a dozen performances following his return to music. Bobby talked to Matt about recording a new album that would feature new songs from Matt and songs from artists he had played with. It was also intended that it would feature some guests from Matt’s past. The first session occurred in 2018, but Matt died suddenly on June 15, 2018, before any follow-up session could occur. Matt recorded three new songs for the album in that first session that are performed on this album.

Bobby determined that he would record a tribute album to Matt so his new songs could be heard. He reached out to Matt’s friends, previous bandmates and those who were influenced by him to produce a legacy album. 72 outstanding musicians responded to the request resulting in what was originally perceived to a be a single cd developing in the double cd that is now being released. It will be impossible to list every performer on the album, but I will attempt to provide some rundown of the major leads on the songs.

The album opens with Matt on guitar on his first new song, “Matt’s Boogie”, an instrumental. It features Ricky “King” Russell on guitar, Bruce Bears on organ, Bob Worthington on bass and Fran Christina on drums. Michelle Brett on guitar, Dave Howard on vocals, and The Mitchfest Horns follow with Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell”. ” I Feel Alright Again” written by Deadric Malone and previously performed by Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown finds Brian Templeton on guitar, Nick Adams on guitar and Colin Tilton on sax. Johnny Nicholas provides the vocals and piano with Scrappy Jud Newcomb on guitar and mandolin, and Danny Levin on fiddle on Memphis Slim’s “Mother Earth”.

A second Memphis Slim song, “I’m Lost without You” features Fran Christina on vocals and drums with Bill “Fox” Mills on guitar, Greg Piccolo on sax, Al Copley on piano, and Marty Ballou on bass. Etta Jame’s “Something Got a Hold on Me” has Christine Ohlman on vocals with Cliff Goodwin playing guitar. A short snippet of the instrumental “Peter Gunn I” from Henry Mancini has Neal Vitullo on guitar with The Mitchfest Horns. Willie Dixon’s “I Can’t Quit You Baby” has Phil Diiorio on vocals with Troy Mercy playing guitar.

Aretha Franklin’s “Think” features Toni Lynn Washington and Lisa Marie on vocals with Chris Leigh on guitar.  “Way Down South”, the title song from Matt’s first solo album, is performed by Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne on vocals and piano, Steve Cropper and Enrico Crivellaro on guitar, Lee Oskar on harmonica, and Mati Vaarmann on Hammond organ. Mighty Joe Young’s “Suffering Soul” is another instrumental with Ronnie Earl and Nick Adams providing guitar, Ron Levy on keyboards and Jaimoe joining Bob Chrsitina on drums. Tom Hambridge wrote an original song, “Jack Rabbit Boy” for the album and provides the vocals and drums with Rob McNelly on guitar and Tommy MacDonald on bass. The song is very much in keeping with something Chuck Berry could have recorded.

The second cd starts with the second song from Matt, “Matt’s Shuffle”, with the same personnel as the first song. Willie Dixon’s “Evil” has Craig Rawding on vocals, Bob Margolin on guitar, Jerry Portnoy on harmonica, and Chuck Leavell on piano. “Rocket 88”, written and originally recorded by Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats and later by Jerry Lee Lewis is performed by Bill Kirchen and Mike Williams on guitar with Carig Rawding on vocals, Chuck Leavell on piano, Gordon “Sax” Beadle on tenor sax. “Sugar on The Floor” is attributed to Pauline Matthews, professionally known as Kiki Dee, as its composer. Christine Ohlman sings with Cliff Goodwin and Ricky “King” Russell on guitar, and Jessica Mancusso on violin.

Fran Christina on vocals and drums combines again with Duke Robillard, Greg Piccolo, Marty Ballou and Al Copley on Memphis Slim’s “Lonesome”. Tracy Nelson takes the vocal lead with Tom Ferraro on guitar and Chuck Leavell on piano on Don Nix’s “Same Old Blues”. Samuel “Magic Sam” Maghett’s “Give Me Some Time” features Doyle Bramhall II on vocals, guitar and bass with Anthony Farrell on keyboards. Andrew Williams’ “Shake A Tailfeather” has Nick David on vocals with Lisa Marie and DD Bastos providing back-up with Chris leigh on guitar, and Johnny Juxo on keyboards.

The third and final song featuring Matt on guitar is “Tired of Sleeping Alone” written by Ricky “King” Russell who also shares guitar with Matt and provides the vocals. Another short snippet of Peter Gunn II follows. Muddy Water’s “Let Me Hang Around” has Joe Beard on vocals and guitar, Chris Beard on guitar, Billy Boy Arnold on harmonica, Brian Leach on bass, and Kenny “Beady Eyes” Smith on drums. The album closes out with an original song written by Joe Beard and on which he sings and plays guitar with Billy Bob Arnold on harmonica as a duet.

The album definitely represents a legacy to Matt Murphy’s performances and demonstrates his range in playing to different genres.  Every song is expertly performed and engaging.

Reviewer John Sacksteder is a retired civil engineer in Louisville, Kentucky who has a lifelong love of music, particularly the blues. He is currently the Editor of the Kentuckiana Blues Society’s monthly newsletter.

 Featured Interview – Jimmy Burns 

imageWe met the man at his apartment on the 2nd floor of a 2-flat, only a couple miles due west of where his family landed when he first came to Chicago in 1955 at the age of twelve. Since migrating from Mississippi, he had spent most of his life living on the Near North side and surrounding communities.

“Come on up,” he bade us on the intercom. “I forgot about the interview so I have a pot goin’ in the kitchen that I have to tend to.”

“Shall we meet you in the front room, then?” we asked.

“Yeah, that’s good, I’ll be with you in a minute; I’ll leave the door open,” he replied.

After a quick ascent up the stairs, we turned left to the large living room facing Potomac Avenue with two wide couches, a computer nook with an office chair and a fireplace topped with an enormous mantle filled with dozens of framed family photos. Bluesman Jimmy Burns joined us presently, dressed in home clothes: a black tee shirt with a random band name emblazoned on the front, blue jeans, and comfy slippers.

“I hope I’m presentable. You know, I really did forget you were comin’,” he laughed.

“Just glad to be here, Jimmy. You’ve given a thousand interviews, but maybe we can touch base on some things not yet explored,” we posited.

“Well, ask away,” he replied with a grin. “I’ve done so many of these, but I’m happy to accommodate.”

The Jimmy Burns Blues saga is not a typical one. Delta born and raised on a cotton plantation until his father moved his large family north, he possesses all the credentials of a bonafide Chicago bluesman with roots in the Deep South. His story, however, takes an unexpected turn from the standard migratory tale after it wends its way into the Windy City.

“You know I was really a doo-wop singer in my early days, not a Blues artist,” he asserts. “Me and the neighborhood kids, we used to gather at the Seward Park Fieldhouse to work out our harmonies. I had come from a Gospel singing tradition growing up in the South and this was close to that. It was a natural step.”

He clearly was a precocious talent. Fresh from the fields, he established himself as a formidable tenor voice in his new city environment with little difficulty.

“Were you a standout vocalist? Is that the way that you assimilated into a new social circle?” we inquired.

“It was just a way of life, you know, all the street corner groups that were cropping up everywhere. This was the ‘50s, mind you. I didn’t live far from the original Cabrini Greens. Not the high rises, but the original neighborhood was row houses. Still is. Curtis Mayfield used to live over there, I used to hang out at his house. We both attended Wells Community Academy. Everyone sang in those days, as I recall. In church, in vocal clubs, under lamp-posts—I can’t remember whether I stood out or not,” he replied modestly.

Modesty is a recurring theme throughout the interview. The man’s remarkable vocal talent is never a subject for braggadocio. But his voice was so good that by the tender age of 16 he had joined an established vocal group, the Medallionaires who had a few 45’s under their belt.

image“You can find them on Youtube,” he says. “I’m not on those Mercury label recordings but I did record with them. The ones I’m on were never released. I was 16 at the time and they were 19 so, yeah, I was the youngster of the group.”

We settled into an easy Q and A for the next hour or so.

Peter M. Hurley: Let’s go to further back, Jimmy. What are your first memories and how did music come into play

Jimmy Burns: Well, my father was a sharecropper. I was born in 1943 in Dublin, Mississippi, the youngest of nine. Not far from Clarksdale where the family would drive to on some weekends. That was the place for serious shopping. I ended up going to grade school in Clarksdale for two years. But we moved from farm to farm in my childhood. I think I can track three moves, three farms. My father drove a tractor on at least two of those farms, but I don’t remember him coming in from working the fields, per se. Daddy played some guitar, some piano and some harp. I read somewhere where they said he performed at medicine shows but someone made that up. He’d play at gatherings at the house, probably. My Mama played a little too.

PMH: And you?

JB: My daddy showed me how to play the diddly bow. He strung it up on the front porch on a post. One string, you know, but I loved that sound. It’s got that Delta sound, I’ll always have that in my blood. It got me acquainted with playing a stringed instrument. Later on, by the age of 9-10, I got a guitar. Now I had 6 strings. Open tuning.

PMH: Open tuning? What chord, what key?

JB: I have no idea. What I do know is that I just knew how to play it automatically. It came out of me like—I just knew how to play it. Though I play in some open tunings today, I couldn’t replicate that one if I had to. I just picked it up and made music.

PMH: Was it blues?

JB: That’s what my folks were playing and listening to. I remember them talkin’ ‘bout Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blues musicians from that era. And Lightin’ Hopkins was on my radar, I still appreciate him today.

PMH: Your music roots seem to have been established so early in you. And yet it was not until many, many years later that you returned to the Blues. You had pursued Doo-Wop, R&B and Soul Music, even Folk in the interim.

JB: This is interesting. It wasn’t until years later that I recognized that Blues music was in all those forms. I eventually realized that Blues was the source. That’s why, when I did “rediscover” the Blues in the early ‘90s, it came to me so naturally. I was a Bluesman by birth and I had sung forms of music with the Blues as inspiration. Funny, I wasn’t so conscious of it the time. Music was just music and there’s only two kinds: good and bad. I told Billy Branch once that the first time I heard him with one of his Sons of Blues lineups, it hit me that that form was within reach for me too. It sounded right. That must have woke up the Blues in me.

PMH: And now, with your Blues that you play today, you fold in all your other influences too.

JB: That’s the beauty of it. I hear arrangements. I hear a Blues song and I might feel it differently than it had been recorded originally. But I feel its power and I feel its message. And I can only reinterpret it in my own way. My years as an R&B singer helped me develop my arranging and songwriting skills.

imagePMH: I’ve been listening to your first Delmark Records album repeatedly to prepare for this interview. It is so fresh. You have the vocal chops of an R&B man and the soul of a Bluesman. And at least five of the songs were written by you. It’s no wonder this release was revered as a breakthrough album and won awards. (“Best Blues Record of the Year’ by the National Association of Independent Record Distributors and two W.C. Handy Award nominations.) How did this come about?

JB: Long story short, after all the singles that I had recorded in the ‘60s and the early 70’s, I decided to concentrate on my family and I quit trying to make it in the business. I settled into a life of running a BBQ joint of my own I called Uncle Mickey’s. This went on until the early ‘90s and I was invited by Johnny Burgin to join him on his weekly slot at Smokedaddy’s on Division. That was a good band. He was playin’ the Blues right, in my opinion. My own way of playing Blues, my years of growing up with the Country Blues, really came through in this context. After some years in residency at this club, Bob Koester of Delmark came in to hear us. He signed me right there and then, and before you know it, I was in his studio up on Rockwell recording that album “Leaving Here Walking,” released in ’96. I’ve been with Delmark ever since, including this new era with Julia (A. Miller: C.E.O.) and Elbio (Barilari: A&R.)

PMH: We recognize this room from your private weekly stream-casts during Covid. You played live from this apartment. Those were great.

JB: Yeah, I did those from right there on that couch. That was a tough time with no work, man. I never want to see that again. But since I play guitar every single day anyway, I decided I might as well play for the public while I was at it. It kept me in the minds of the people and I’d get responses from folks who were listening from all over the world. And I’m still learning guitar, it never ceases.

PMH: You do have a remarkable history of traveling.

JB: I’ve been all over Europe and into Russia. I’ve traveled extensively in South America too, especially Brazil. I have friends down there and have stayed all over. I still travel to Blues fests all over. In fact, I’m leaving for Germany in a couple of days with my band. We’ve been together for some time now. Good guys. And we know each other quite well musically. I’ve got James Carter on drums, E. G. McDaniel on bass, and Anthony Palmer on additional guitar. I do love to travel. When all is said and done, though, I always say that my two favorite places are Chicago and the United States (chuckles.)At that point, Jimmy’s adult grandson named after him popped in. “Look after that pot, James?” instructed Grandaddy. Later on, his oldest child walked in and gave Daddy a kiss. “Hi, I’m Velvet. It’s really Blue Velvet but it got shortened over the years.” Mr. Burns’ family is a source of great pride and the myriad aforementioned photos attest to it.

PMH: So, after some time with the Medallionaires, you began to record on your own. Those were some great records. Collectors’ items, I hear.

JB: Last I heard, my Soul number with the Fantastic Epics that was released in the early ‘70s, “I Really Love You,” is so rare, an original copy sells for something like $6000 in the U.K. But I sure don’t get any of that,” he chuckled. “You see, these records are now seen as falling into the category of “Northern Soul” in contrast to Southern Soul, out of Memphis and the like. Northern Soul would be recorded in Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, places like that. But we didn’t think to categorize it back in the day because, of course, we were just playing our music.

imagePMH: Did you tour behind the early recordings in the early to mid-‘60s? Were you ever on a package tour?JB: No, I pretty much played Chicago is all, record hops and the like, where I’d lip-synch. That was common in the late ‘50s and ‘60s. To have a record, you still needed promotion behind it and there wasn’t much to go around from the labels I was with: Tip Top, Dispo, Erica, and later on U.S.A. Records, like that. I do remember the first time I played in Milwaukee, however (laughing). I’d never been that far north!

PMH: I love those records. Your voice was something else. Still is. (Think Jackie Wilson meets Ben E. King, with a little of the rasp of The Temptations’ David Ruffin on the side.)

JB: I’m glad they’re on YouTube for people to enjoy.

A Google search of Jimmy Burn’s early recordings reveals a trove of classic-but-obscure R&B and Soul offerings by a great talent who never reached the Top 40. See: “Forget It,” “Give her To Me,” “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone,” “Through All Your Faults,” “I Don’t Need Your Help,” “R&B,” “I Tried,” “Used To Be,” “‘I Can’t Get Over,” “Did It Ever Cross Your Mind?,” “Powerful Love” and the aforementioned “I Really love You.” All are under the name of Jimmy Burns, Jimmy Burns & The Casics, or Jimmy Burns & the Fantastic Epics.

PMH: Any chance of a Jimmy Burns’ Greatest Early Hits package some day?

JB: Oh, those labels and their master recordings are long gone. But at least some of the actual discs survived and are in collectors’ hands.

PMH: Any other brushes with stardom in the ‘60s?

JB: I remember when me and the Epics played the old Arie Crown Theater before it burned down. The Yardbirds were on the bill too and Jeff Beck used to hang with us at a club called “Thumb’s Up” on Broadway & Surf. They had bands like Baby Huey & The Babysitters doin’ Top 40 stuff back then. The girls were crazy about Jeff, especially when he’d do that thing with the feedback. Last time I saw him was at Buddy Guy’s old club, he had dropped in. Beck remembered that time with us, we had a nice reunion.

PMH: RIP, Jeff Beck. Much later on, after the success of your first Blues offering, “Leaving Here Walking,” you’ve had some great follow-ups.

JB: Well, my first full album, that did put me on the map. And I immediately began to tour. I was an “overnight success” at the age of 53! But yes, I continued to record and have built up a large repertoire.

PMH: Speaking of age, it seems you surround yourself with younger musicians. And your albums showcase a cross section of Blues, Blues-Rock, R&B, Country Blues, City Blues, the works. Your album “Stuck In The Middle” is about as rocky a Blues album as there is out there.

imageJB: That one features my man, Dave Herrero, who has recorded with me and has been on the road with me. There’s a YouTube video of our stage performance in Turkey. That’s a great country and they love the Blues there. Keeping the younger Blues players around me keeps me vital. I still host an open mic night every other Wednesday at Buddy Guy’s Legends, I alternate with Brother John, and I still see a lot of youngsters coming on the scene. To be honest with you, the line about what age group plays, what is Blues and what isn’t, who plays it and who doesn’t is somewhat blurred in my eyes. As I mentioned, music is music, good or bad. I gravitate to the good.

PMH: You’ve got a new album in the works, right?

JB: Yes, it’s a little different than most of my others. Elbio at Delmark hooked me up with some jazz cats who go by the name of Soul Message Band. It’s a great quartet, with two horns, drums and organ. The material on this CD, to be called Full Circle, will reflect the instrumentation and the players on them.

PMH: Let’s name-check all of your albums, Jimmy. There’s your debut we’ve mentioned, there’s Night Time Again, Stuck In The Middle, Back to the Delta, It Ain’t Right, Good Gone Bad, Eddie Burns’ Snake Eyes that includes you and a live record at B.L.U.E.S..

JB: Those are all available on Delmark except Stuck in the Middle, which is on Velrone Records.

PMH: What a breadth of material. And with so much original songwriting—classic sounding with great hooks, like they’ve been around forever! And you’ve covered everyone from Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Stealers Wheel, John Lennon, John Hiatt, Willie Dixon, Leroy Carr, Elmore James, your older brother Eddie Burns, and the list goes on and on and on. Not to mention my personal favorite, a solo guitar/vocal cover of “Gypsy Woman” written by Curtis Mayfield. What a magnificent interpretation by a contemporary Bluesman.

JB: I love recording as much as performing onstage. My ears are wide open to everything. Each of us is a product of our age, our eras. And the material I perform is the stuff that hits me, that moves me. I’m happy that people like it, it makes it all so right.

Just like his soon-to-be released CD with a jazz combo, Jimmy Burns is an explorer of many threads that lead back to his birthright sounds. Folding in his gospel roots, teen-age doo-wop, Soul and R&B sounds, he’s found a home in his own brand of the Blues and it is reflected back in his big presence in the world-wide Blues scene. With a warm handshake and a hug, we parted.

“See you ’round when I get back from Germany,” the man said. “Now I got to see to that pot I have on the stove.”

Journalist Peter Hurley is a noted Chicago Blues writer and photographer. Mr. Hurley’s passion for Blues music and its accompanying photography was first inspired by the 1960s albums Chicago Blues Today Vol. 1, Jr. Wells’ It’s My Life, Baby and the Chess Records Little Walter compilation Hate To See You Go.

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6 

imageBuenos Diaz – Fox Street Blues

Wormhole Records

12 songs time – 36:50

Mexican-American singer-guitarist-songwriter and Austin, Texas native Nick Diaz and his band Buenos Diaz offer up a rather uneven slice of blues rock. While he is an adept guitarist, the lyrics and delivery come off much of the time as awkward. He also provides bass and percussion while being backed by the keyboards of Sam Powell and three alternating drummers. Nick wrote all but one tune. He is experimenting with sounds here and taking chances, but some of his endeavors are misguided. Hopefully his future projects will have better structure along with a more cohesive sound.

The brief intro track “Hope” consists of twiddling guitars, pounding drums, indecipherable voices and feedback. This leads into the charging rock of “Nothing To Lose” that features no guitar soloing. “Let It Go, Let It Out” nicely saunters along with nick laying down some burning guitar licks over Sam Powell’s electric piano. The vocals and lyrics detract from the tasty groove and guitar skills on “Punch Drunk In Love”

He pulls out some fine blues guitar action on the shuffling “Big Hips, Smooth Lips, Wet Kiss”. This is one of his better vocals as his voice can be appealing to the listener. Some good blues-rock guitar salvages the weak lyrics of “The Blues Live In Texas”. The song has an infectious ringing guitar riff and Jeff Olson’s drums are in the pocket. More guitar fireworks on “Bandito Blues”.

Nick breaks out some nasty slide guitar for “I Got The Blues” along with his energetic vocal. The boys answer the question of “Where’s The Funk In The Neighborhood” with thumping bass, driving drums and wah-wah guitar. The vocals are a bit over-shouted, but they fit the vibe. His slide guitar on “Where Do We Go” is very melodic. What self-respecting blues-rocker wouldn’t include a nod to Jimi Hendrix? They do a good interpretation of the music and Nick talk-sings the words. What sounds like keyboard accents are a nice addition.

The songs here are hit-or-miss, but there is no denying Nick’s way around a guitar. It is the saving grace of this album. The drumming and keyboards add strength to the proceedings. You blues-rockers out there should give this a look-see.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6 

imageJennifer Lyn & The Groove Revival – Live From The Northern Plains

J&R Collective – 2024

10 tracks; 42 minutes

Jennifer Lyn & The Groove Revival have previously released two EPs in 2022 and 2023 and now follow those up with a live album, recorded on home turf in Bismark, North Dakota. The band is Jennifer on lead vocals and guitar, Richard Torrance on guitar/BV’s, Barb Jiskra on keys, Nolyn Falcon on bass and Jim Anderson on drums/BV’s Jennifer and Richard reprise five of their original songs from their EPs, one with assistance from Jim, and there are five covers.

“Gypsy Soul” was the title of the band’s second EP and makes a catchy opener here with rocking piano and strong guitar interchanges: “My one true love is rock and roll, Lord, please help me, I’ve got a gypsy soul”. A thick guitar riff is at the heart of “I Hope We Make A Change” which has a strong chorus on which Richard and Jim’s backing vocals stand out while rolling piano underpins “Going Round In Circles”, the closest to a straight blues here. The band rock out on “Low Down Dirty Shame”, the twin guitars featuring before the band closes with a gentler song in “You Can Take It All”, well sung and played with hints of country in the guitars.

With a twin guitar line-up it is no surprise to find the Allmans are an influence and the band covers two of the best known ABB titles here. Both work well and, although it is always difficult to match the quality of Duane and Dickey, “Midnight Rider” certainly has its moments with a spiraling solo towards the end of the tune. Nolyn’s rumbling bass opens “Whipping Post”, Jennifer’s vocals suit the tune well and the two guitarists play off each other really well too. CCR’s “Long As I Can See The Light” has always had a gospel feel to it and that aspect comes out strongly in this version of the John Fogerty anthem while “House Of The Rising Sun” follows the Animals’ version quite closely, no doubt reflecting the fact that the band also perform a British Invasion tribute show; the addition of a fiery slide solo elevates the cover. Ever since Bonnie Raitt covered Chris Smithers’ “Love Me Like A Man” the song has become almost obligatory for female singers; Jennifer delivers a strong vocal and the piano solo is excellent.

As always, a live album provides a fine memory for those who were there but the excellent sound quality and performance make this one attractive to a much wider audience.

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

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